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Today's Case

Cuban Mojo Sauce

Subject: Cuban Mojo
From: Andrea
Date:8/28/2019, 4:40 PM

On 8/28/2019 1:09 PM, andrea wrote:

Good afternoon, Uncle.

It's Andrea in Houston.

Back in the 1990s, my co-workers and I used to frequent a local Cuban restaurant 
called Latina Cafe here in Houston.  It was owned by a Korean family. Apparently, 
it was originally called Cafe Cardet and owned by a Cuban family. (Here's a story 
about the restaurant--I think it's probably true: Cuban Classic).
Cuban Classic by Paul Galvani

It probably should have been preceded by a drum roll, but instead, the faux-wood 
bowl slid through a curtained o...

Anyway, Latina Cafe had the best "fried pork chunks with garlic sauce."  It's 
described in the article (and it's true, the food did get better after some 
rumored change--I just don't remember what it was).  From my understanding, 
the sauce is a mojo sauce.  None of the other Cuban restaurants in town have a 
garlic sauce that is similar.  I read somewhere that perhaps what made this mojo 
sauce special was the addition of pineapple?  Or orange?  I really miss the sauce.  
I saw a post on a "lost restaurants of Houston" thread where a guy indicated his 
mom had been the cook that returned to the restaurant and hoped he could share the 
recipe.  I have not seen a response to my request.  (I searched your archives, but 
I don't think the mojo recipes you shared are it.)  The pork chunks were great too 
(so a recipe for that would be great too--I hope this doesn't count as a second 
request as it was one dish).

Can you help?  The description in the article is pretty accurate.  I can't remember 
when the restaurant closed, but I know it was some time before 2011 (because the 
new restaurant that took the space opened in December 2011).


Hi Andrea,

I visited those sites that you mention:

Houston Architecture

Defunct Houston Restaurants


Cuban Classic by Paul Galvani

I think that the person who said the sauce was "pineapple based" was just guessing.  I cannot find any mojo sauce that is pineapple based. Mojo pork dishes often are topped with pineapple salsa, and possibly the fried pork chunks from Latina Cafe were, too. Maybe that's where they got the idea of pineapple.

I'd put more stock in the Houston Press article about Latina Cafe - "Cuban Classic" by Paul Galvani, a restaurant critic. He says:
For garlic lovers, mojo is nirvana; sauteed in olive oil and bitter orange, then mixed with scallions into a thin paste, the garlic gives mojo its traditional bite.

After the garlic itself, orange juice is the key to authentic Cuban mojo marinade or sauce. Not just any orange juice, but "sour orange juice", or "bitter orange juice", or "naranja agria", which is made from  (bitter orange juice) which is made from the Seville oranges that are plentiful in Cuba. There are a lot of recipes on the web for mojo sauce that just call for "orange juice", not "sour orange juice or "bitter orange juice".  Note that the Houston Press restaurant critic says "bitter orange", so use "bitter orange" if you want it to taste like Latina Cafe's. I'm not sure how Latina Cafe used their mojo marinade, but perhaps they saved the marinade after marinating the pork and then mixed it with some pan drippings to make a table sauce.

There are some recipes here for this type of mojo marinade:

I Cuban

Kitchen de lugo

I could not find a fried pork chunks recipe from "Latina Cafe" or "Cardet Cafe" in Houston, but there are several pork with mojo sauce or mojo marinated pork recipes on the web, such as this one:

Cuban Braised Pork with Mojo Sauce

Remember to use bitter orange juice instead of plain orange juice. Where to get bitter orange juice? Your supermarket may have it in their Mexican food section. Goya is one brand. If not, then you can get it at a Mexican grocery, of which there are many in Houston.


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