There is no more popular meat than pork in Cuba — one of the many cultural commonalities that Cuba has with China, where I lived for more than a decade. While there are shortages of nearly everything else in Cuba, you can almost always find pork, at your local farmer’s market, freshly slaughtered and hanging from hooks, starting at around $2 per pound. Funnily enough, though, the most common pork dish in Cuba today, el bistec, comes from the word “beef steak” — a reference to the days when beef was used to make this dish. But now with beef scarce, you’ll find pork as the stand-in, in this recipe and many of the hamburgers you find across Cuba. My kids love el bistec — it’s become our go-to protein that our kids will reliably eat, without a fight. This dish goes well with rice and black beans, and a little avocado, if you have it.
2 pounds thinly-sliced (about 1/4-inch thick) boneless pork chops
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons cooking oil (vegetable, soybean, canola)
1/2 medium onion, halved and sliced into 1/8-inch pieces
Pound the pork chops with the back of a butcher knife or a meat mallet to tenderize them. Marinate with the garlic, cumin, and the lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 24 hours). Place a large pan or wok on medium-high heat before adding cooking oil and swirl it around the pan/wok so a nice slick of oil covers it. Add the pork and let it cook for 5 minutes without disturbing it; flip and cook the other side for another 5 minutes. Add two cups of water, cover, and reduce heat to medium low and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the onion slices, cover, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the meat is tender. Serve immediately, with rice, Cuban black beans, and avocado slices.