It’s a staple across many South Florida homes during the holidays and for Cubans, in particular, La Caja China is basically synonymous with Noche Buena (Christmas Eve). Pork roasts underneath layers of burning coal to create what many consider one of the most tender and flavorful foods in the world.
The name literally translates to “the Chinese box." It is a roasting box made of wood, lined with sheets of aluminum.
“You basically place the meat or whatever you are cooking inside. You close the box and put charcoal on top. On the end panel it gives you instructions on how much to put depending on what model you have and every hour you add charcoal. In about 3 and a half to 4 and a half hours depending on the size of your meat you’ll have it nice and ready to go. Crispy skin!” says Avian Guerra, Vice President of La Caja China.
In the 1950s, in Cuba, Roberto Guerra saw the Chinese in Havana’s Chinatown cooking in a similar box. It wasn’t until 1985, however, after moving to Miami, that Guerra decided to create his own roasting box. Guerra and his son made a prototype and the rest is history.
La Caja China is now sold around the world and people of all cultures use it to cook a variety of meats. Pork or “lechon” is the main event for most Cubans on Christmas Eve.
“Most people roast a whole pork, but you can do a lamb, goat, smaller items, a brisket,” said Guerra.
The company has grown to offer more than 10 different roasting boxes. Prices range from $289.99 to about $1,299.
Although December is one of their busiest months for sales, the company vice president says the summer is also very hectic due to orders from other states.
“Memorial Day is also a busy time because up north we have a lot of sales as well and that’s when everyone brings out their boxes,” said Guerra.
For the Guerra family, this Christmas Eve will be a little different. It’s the first time they’ll spend the holiday without “the man behind the Caja China.” Roberto Guerra passed away in July, however, his grandson says he is proud of his accomplishments as well as his impact on the community during such a meaningful time of year.
“It’s great to see every year on Noche Buena so many people gathering around La Caja China making delicious lechon for family and friends. It’s an honor to be Roberto Guerra’s grandson,” said Avian.