Cuban communist cuisine: Banana peels used as meat substitute in beef stew

Ropa Vieja is one of the most popular and delicious Cuban dishes you’ll ever enjoy. Shredded beef slowly stewed in tomato, onions, peppers, garlic, and many other spices produces a tender and heavenly dish. But what do you do when you live under communism and there is no beef for Ropa Vieja? Well, you substitute the beef with banana peels. This is socialism in action.

Via CubaNet (my translation):

Ropa Vieja with banana peels: A new recipe from the Cuban crisis

Unconventional recipes continue to proliferate in Cuban kitchens due to the food insecurity the island is experiencing. The hardships during the crisis of the 1990s gave rise to dishes like “bistec de frazada” (cleaning cloth steak) and “picadillo de cáscara de plátano” (plantain peel hash), which have now “inspired” the creation of “ropa vieja” (shredded beef) made from banana peel.

It all began with a post that gained popularity in the Facebook group “Recetas desde el Corazón” (“Recipes from the Heart”). With around 256,000 members, the page became the platform where a user shared the dish that has caused a stir.

The Cuban commenter recounts discovering the banana peel “ropa vieja” while waiting in line at a bakery. Several women there were discussing food shortages and wondering what to bring to the table in those circumstances.

“A lady explained that they could use banana peels to make ‘ropa vieja.’ Yes, ‘ropa vieja.’ She gave the recipe, and I was there listening to it all. Curiosity flooded me from head to toe, and I said to myself, ‘I have to try this,'” narrated the commenter.

Beef is the star ingredient of “ropa vieja,” one of the most representative dishes of Cuban cuisine. However, this product, which has been banned by law on the island for years, is currently unattainable for most of the population.

Hence, the author of the post suggests a vegan version of the recipe. By shredding and cooking banana peels, Cubans would then be adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, one to which they have been practically forced to maintain.

“I boiled the banana peels and after they cooled down, I ran a fork along the inside, creating grooves. I passed the fork again between these grooves and the skin of the peel, removing the vegetable protein fibers. I sautéed it in a pan with oil and added tomato purée, dry wine, salt to taste, and a little sugar,” said the user.

According to the Cuban’s opinion, the recipe can help anyone out in a pinch while enjoying an “exquisite” flavor with possibilities for improvement by incorporating “other seasonings and spices.”

The vegan community around the world frequently consumes plantain peels and similar foods to achieve textures similar to meat. Unlike the people on the island, vegans choose this form of diet for moral and health reasons, not due to scarcity or restrictions.

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