Homemade Traditional Cuban Sandwiches with Ham Pork and Cheese

Most people have heard of the Cuban sandwich, but in Miami, the medianoche is closest to the heart of every resident.

WHAT IS IT?

This ultimate Latin comfort food originated in Cuba.  The term medianoche, which is Spanish for midnight, comes from its history as a late night snack for Cubans leaving famous Havana nightclubs in the 40’s and 50’s.

WHAT’S IN IT?

A close cousin to the Cuban sandwich, the medianoche actually has all of the same ingredients: ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and dill pickles.  The only difference is that the former is made with Cuban bread, while the latter is made with an egg dough, similar to challah. While Cuban bread is too crusty when pressed and makes a huge mess, this soft, yellow bread of the is a game changer with its lack of crumbs and sweet flavor.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD ONE?

There are a few keys to making a medianoche well.  It must be pressed to heat the sandwich throughout, but overdone bread can compromise the texture and flavor of the whole thing. The medianoche also must contain equal portions of ham and roast pork. Lastly, it’s imperative that Swiss cheese and mustard are included. While some people think condiments and toppings can be switched around, the specifics of this sandwich are what make it special.

SO WHERE CAN I GET ONE?

A great spot in Miami Beach is Las Olas Café.  It’s not far from the hotel, and you can pick up a coratido (Cuban espresso cut with a little warm milk) to give yourself a pickup!  

You can also get a medianoche at any of Miami’s many Cuban joints, but, unsurprisingly, the best ones are found in Little Havana.  Go to one of the area’s best Cuban restaurants, El Exquisito, for an exquisite example of the city’s favorite sandwich. While you’re there, try a batido de mamey (mamey milkshake). Mamey is a tropical fruit that grows in the Caribbean and has a rich and complex taste profile that has been said to include sweet potato, peach, cherry, and pumpkin!

A NEW TAKE ON AN OLD FAVORITE

At Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Co. they’ve put a new spin on the medianoche while maintaining that classic feel. This one is a triple-decker that includes lettuce and tomatoes. In replacement of the regular pork slices, pork belly is cured, pulled, and blended with more fat to give this treat a more succulent flavor.

If you’re up for an even more creative item, you can get an order of medianoche croquetas, which have all of the ingredients of its namesake surrounded in a ball of mashed potatoes, covered with breadcrumbs, and fried yum!