Among many other dishes that are typical in Cuba, is the cooking of a dish that mixes rice and beans, a combination that is linked to Cuba’s mestizo (mixed race) origins.
Rice is one of the most consumed foods, to the extent that it is stated that it’s an ingredient that should not be missing in the Cuban diet. The combinations that it generates are so distinguished and delicious that they will leave a mark on the tastebuds and olfactory memory of even the most demanding diners.
Rice and beans is a dish known in many countries in America and Africa, but in Cuba, as well as serving them separately, they also cook this dish by combining them together to usher in a gastronomic jewel, savoured by travellers from all corners of the world and several generations of Cubans who cleverly mix together two ingredients of vegetable origin.
From Caribbean cuisine, the big pot simmered in the hot sun for almost five centuries, Cubans share this traditional method of cooking rice and beans, using one or other of these legumes, with different neighbouring peoples, and we find this dish not only in Haiti, but also in Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, the Bahamas and other islands in the Caribbean and Central America.
In Cuba, there are slight differences with regards to the spices, which is the logical result of transculturation. Don Fernando Ortiz describes the casserole as possibly, but not proven, African in origin, in his essay about Afrocuban cooking, published for the first time in the magazine Bimestre Cubana in 1923. But he is not wrong, ‘Congrí’ is not the same as “Moors and Christians”, where the rice is mixed with black beans, which also seems to be a dish of African descent. ‘Congrí’ is mainly eaten in the east of the country, whilst the ‘Moors’ are known more in the west of the archipelago.
To this interesting clarification concerning the origin of our custom of cooking rice and beans together, we can also add that usually in the preparation of this dish if the beans are soft and homegrown it is not necessary to precook them.
And an unbreakable rule is that in ‘Congrí’ or ‘Moors and Christians’, the rice grains should be separate and not stuck together or soupy. Recipe for ‘Congrí’ according to Xiomara from Bayamo.
Obviously in any part of Cuba one can find this Creole creation, but for some reason it is known as Eastern, perhaps because of the little pieces of pork or rather pork crackling.
For geographic and historic reasons it is wise to think about its Franco-Haitian origins, attributed to the presence of French migrants from Haiti into the areas of Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba at the end of the XV111 century and the beginning of the XIX.