Growing up in the 305 means you've had your share of Noche Buena parties, and although South Florida's multicultural landscape is steeped in unique traditions, the Magic City definitely has its own take on Christmas Eve. Miamians have created a holiday filled with dancing, dominoes, and debauchery. For newcomers and snowbirds, here are Miami's Noche Buena must-haves.
Pork. Whether you call it lechón or pernil, you've likely made a trip to Hialeah with abuelo to pick out "dinner." Even if you've been spared the traumatic ordeal, it's not uncommon to see cars on the Palmetto Expressway with recently departed hogs strapped to the roof. Being that Miami has strong a Cuban community, mojo is key. The marinade consisting of garlic, sour orange, cumin, oregano, and oil provides an inherent aroma familiar to most locals. If you don't have a caja china, you can purchase an authentic Hialeah hog and the fixings from Las Viñas BBQ. 3935 E. Fourth Ave, Hialeah; 305-694-2040; lasvinasbbq.com. Prices vary by size.
Yuca. The Latin American staple is a must at any celebration. It's typically boiled or deep-fried and keeps you going once the aguardiente shots come out. Try either variation from Versailles, which adds extra cilantro to its creamy garlic dipping sauce. A half tray of yuca frita feeds eight to ten people and costs $38. 3501 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-444-0240; versaillesrestaurant.com.
Moros or congri. Beans, sofrito, and rice are cooked together, providing a drier, rustic version of rice and beans. El Palacio de los Jugos has a great selection of rice dishes, and with nine locations throughout Miami-Dade, it's easy to find one close to abuela's house. 5721 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-264-1503; elpalaciodelosjugos.com.
Flan. Every Hispanic family in Miami-Dade, from Little Havana to Doral, claims to make the best flan. Although it might be sacrilegious to purchase the caramel custard outside the family circle, Casa Cuba's is pretty darn delicious. Pick up some flan de coco for $4.50. 5859 SW 73rd St., South Miami; 305-709-1214; casacubarestaurant.com.
Plantains. This starchier cousin of the banana is commonly served two ways, as tostones and maduros. The two preparations create a delicious collision of savory and sweet. The salty crunch of tostones is the perfect complement to the sweetness of maduros. Grab them both from La Carreta. 3632 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-444-7501; lacaretta.net.
Coquito. Miami is obsessed with coquito. The Puerto Rican eggnog, made from coconut milk, rum, and spices, is definitely a usual suspect at the dinner table. And when it comes to procuring coquito, every Miamian has their own coquito dealer — it's like asking for counterfeit Louis Vuitton on Canal Street. Ask the right people and you'll find what you're looking for.