29 Oct2007

Arroz a la Cubana

by Marketman


Arroz a la Cubana was a BIG DEAL in our home. For some reason, it was festive food. Now that I deconstruct the dish, it’s just sauteed ground meat with bottled condiments served with rice, egg and saba bananas. There are so many versions of Cuban rice out there, many served with beans as the protein rather than meat, that I wonder how much this rice dish has evolved into more Arroz a la Pinoy con Cubana… At any rate, I have NOT made this dish for years and today I was doodling with ground meat from the grocery and didn’t want to freeze any leftovers so I made some Arroz a la Cubana with about 500 grams of meat. It was dead easy. And after tasting it and smelling it, I have decided it is a serious food memory trigger from childhood. Even blindfolded, I can pick this dish from a lineup of several different dishes…the smell is that memorable…


How this can be even remotely authentic with bottled Worcestershire sauce and Kikkoman is beyond me, but here is the recipe I used. Heat up a pan and add some vegetable oil, add finely chopped onion and garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add some chopped tomatoes or a bit of tomato paste. Next add some ground lean beef and pork and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add several tablespoons of Kikkoman and 1/2 or 1/3 the amount of Worcestershire sauce. Some salt to taste if necessary and ground black pepper. In the version I photographed here I added chopped some golden raisins and some green peas. Serve with white rice, fried saba bananas and fried eggs. I am not sure what is so attractive about this dish but I suspect it is the salty and sweet, the different textures, the all in one kind of dish that makes this a “complete” meal. I like it with ketchup as well. There are dozens of variations out there I am sure, any brilliant twists to your family’s version???



  1. Teddycapz says:

    I prepare Arroz ala Cubana pretty much the same way, although I mix in both diced deseeded tomatoes and tomato paste. A twist would be my addition of diced green bell pepper and a pince of cumin. I also season it the same way but with bit of brown sugar. Likewise I toss in some seedless raisins for the token fruitiness.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 4:23 pm


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  3. Teddycapz says:

    Oops, I mean pinch not pince.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 4:26 pm

  4. millet says:

    arroz ala cubana was one of my dad’s favorite things to cook, along with tortilla de patatas and fideos soup. he would cook the meat first, then the bananas, and finally, the eggs. while the eggs were frying, he would line up our plates, one per person, put a cup molded from a chinese soup bowl, surround it with the meat, put two slices of fried bananas on one side, and plop a perfectly fried egg on top of the rice. there would be extra platters of meat, bananas and eggs in the center of the table.

    we each had out own rituals for eating this. for some reason, i would shake a few drops of maggi or knorr seasoning over the meat and eggs, then mix everything up like jamaican “dirty rice”. one of my brothers would break up the egg and mix it with the rice till the rice was yellow. another would always eat it with ketchup. whenever i cook this now, i add bell pepper strips and plenty of onions. my husband and sons like to add some ketchup and tabasco. it’s real comfort food in our family. i miss my dad.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 4:47 pm

  5. elaine says:

    I once tasted arroz a la cubana with kamote in place of potatoes(incidentally I like putting potatoes),peas, carrots(and sometimes raisins). I love the addition of green peas/or carrots as ‘extenders’,with toasted saba on the sides and super fried egg. It’s somewhat a complete meal, high on protein.. A dash of knorr seasoning and tabasco make it exceptional..it’s emergency(as I always have ground meat everytime)and comfort food at the same time.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 6:08 pm

  6. Em Dy says:

    We use hard boiled eggs instead. We serve it with rice at the center of the plate. The ground meat is poured over the rice and topped with slices of hard boiled eggs. The fried bananas surround the mound of rice.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 6:18 pm

  7. Katrina says:

    This is one of my dad’s favorites (he loves ground meat). Our version is redder and saucier, and has the dark raisins. We also serve it like Millet does, with the meat around the cup of rice and the egg on top.

    My brother-in-law once experimented and added a bit of cinnamon and cumin, which, of course, my dad hated and I loved. ;-)

    Oct 29, 2007 | 6:31 pm

  8. alicia says:

    I really love this dish and when presented nicely makes a great treat when you have some friends over for a casual lunch. Add a green salad and your good to go! Mine is redder also. I like to add some sliced chorizo to the potatoes, peas,raisins and garnish with red bell pepper. Another ingredient I use to flavor it with ais little bit of curry powder, but very little, not to strong. The hint of curry goes very well with the raisins.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 9:48 pm

  9. artisan chocolatier says:

    MM, A little trivia…How did arroz a la cubana get its name and where did it come from?

    I met a couple of Cubans and they never had it in cuba. I recall a puerto rican chef say its their national dish. So who brought it to the Philippines?

    I make mine the same as you and also like it with ketchup (but no peas please). It was one of my mainstays to remind me of home when i was overseas. While living stateside, I substituted the saba with Goya frozen fried plantains.

    I once dressed up the presentation by stuffing the meat into large red and yellow bell peppers and placing the fried egg over it. I had the rice around the pepper.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 10:06 pm

  10. NYCMama says:

    This is a staple in our house since I can whip it up in no time, and the kids love it. Sometimes I freeze the ground meat already cooked and just thaw, heat and serve. The only thing we miss now and then is the saba, hard to get in New York. So what I do when I have the time is I order “maduros” or fried ripe plantains from a Latin restaurant. Once, when I ran out of green peas, I put edamame beans, and it was okay too. My aunt can’t eat it unless she sprinkles maggi on it. I eat it with Lea & Perrins, the kids eat it with “Filipino catsup” a.k.a. Jufran! I like to make my fried eggs runny so the yolk becomes sauce too. I also use very little tomato sauce/paste, not a whole can, so when I found tomato paste in a tube (used to bring them in from Europe or Mexico ’til I found them in U.S. groceries) I was happy, cause a few squirts was perfect for the cubana. And yes, I have asked a few people of Cuban descent, they don’t know what this is, not strictly the way Filipinos prepare it.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 10:09 pm

  11. allen says:

    We add some paprika, cumin and tomato paste to our arroz a la Cubana, pimientos even, if we have them… then mould some rice in cups and invert on a plate, top with a sunny side up and serve with fried saba bananas on the side. I heard there’s no such thing as this in Cuba :)

    Oct 29, 2007 | 10:10 pm

  12. ryan says:

    Yeah, I’ve read Cubans are totally clueless about it. So it must be a Pinoy concoction with a foreign mentality. Like Java rice, it did not come from Indonesia. Puertorican’s arroz con gandules is similar, but not quite. There’s no lumpiang shanghai in Shanghai, right?

    Oct 29, 2007 | 10:40 pm

  13. aggy says:

    in our quezon city household way back in the 80’s, it was called “picadillo”, same ingredients though, and same sides-bananas etc.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 10:51 pm

  14. acmr says:

    Serious comfort food! Yum!

    I make a slightly different version now and then. I add some cumin and sliced green olives. The recipe I used calls it “Cuban Beef Hash”. So its not exactly the same, pero it also has tomato sauce/paste, raisins, peas. But the beef has because of the stronger flavor, is served over white rice.

    But pinoy-cuban style is great! Fried egg on top of cup-moulded rice made is a little fancier for kids.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 1:07 am

  15. Maria Clara says:

    Wrapped in well scrambled eggs it’s morphed into torta. I love it with pan de sal. Very common karinderya or turo turo joint fare. Common fillers/extenders are cubed potatoes or kamote in place of green peas and raisins to contain cost.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 1:31 am

  16. Mangaranon says:

    Where is the fried egg, rice and fried banana?

    Oct 30, 2007 | 4:29 am

  17. kiwipino says:

    I had to laugh – is that what you call this dish? It’s been one of my faves since childhood and I cook it for my family now on a regular basis sans bananas. Always a hit with my kiwi hubby and kids, especially during winter…. but never knew what to call it. You learn something everyday. BTW, I make torta with the leftovers.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 4:35 am

  18. Apicio says:

    Probably called Arroz a la Cubana because it is based on a recipe of picadillo common in Cuba. It is a traditional dish in most of Latin America but only the Cuban version is said to contain raisins and olives. The addition of fried saba can be our own take (just like in our pochero) although fried maduros are an accompaniment to almost anything in Dominican tables too. This is also a great filling for empanadas specially if the beef (pork or chicken) is ground as coarsely as possible and you fry the potatoes first (or use chopped up french fries). To avoid darkening it with soya sauce, use a little bit of Japanese miso instead when sauteeing.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 4:48 am

  19. bernadette says:

    Thank you for all the ideas and variations presented! I didn’t really know that what my mother would always cook for us when we were kids is called arroz a la Cubana! My husband told me that he once ordered this in Jollibee and liked it so much. I was at first puzzled about what this dish was all about—for such a fancy name methinks. When I saw it, I was amused because I can whip it up anytime! At home then, I would always prefer my eggs raw instead of fried! On piping hot rice and meat, the raw eggs sort of moistens everything.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 7:47 am

  20. dhayL says:

    This looks yummy and easy to prepare, i will definitely try this very soon. Thanks for the recipe MM, it came just right in time, I’ve been looking around for another recipe with ground meat as a main ingredient, I’ve been making spring rolls, torta, shu mai, spaghetti and others with ground meat, nakakasawa na minsan, so i’m glad to have this new addition! Thanks!

    Oct 30, 2007 | 8:17 am

  21. cumin says:

    All your comments sound promising, I can almost smell your cooking. I could try making the vegetarian version — I wonder what kind of beans I could use as substitute?

    Ryan, maybe no lumpiang shanghai in Shanghai, but I saw lumpiang shanghai signs in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. My jaw dropped! And then I whipped out my camera!

    Oct 30, 2007 | 8:34 am

  22. Mags says:

    Your blog is a recent discover and I love it! In the past couple of weeks, since trying the recipe for french onion soup a la T. Keller, your site has become a go-to resource for recipe ideas and meal inspirations. I live in Tokyo now, and am trying to make more Pinoy dishes for my hubby. The arroz a la cubana post got me craving it so now it’s on the menu for the coming days! The last time I had it was when I was still living in Manila, which was more than a decade ago!

    Oct 30, 2007 | 9:59 am

  23. dee bee says:

    that would be really yummy eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves, similar to the ‘sang choi bao’.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 10:07 am

  24. Myra P. says:

    Cumin, for the vegetarian version, i’d think black beans, like what is used for frijoles, would be a good choice. Locally, i believe it’s called black sitao, but MM will correct me if I’m wrong :) Or, you could mix up several types of small beans. Yum.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 10:37 am

  25. jimbo says:

    In Aussie we call it Train Smash (Hash), its a memorable dish, improved by tinned chopped tomatoes and a good slurp of olive oil and dry red wine.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 12:06 pm

  26. MarketFan says:

    I also see this on our dinner table and lately, a variation introduced by our helper is to stuff the cooked ground meat in cut up pieces of ampalaya instead of green bell pepper. Makes for very nice presentation because of the contrasting bright green ampalaya (cylindrical, with different heights, think of decorative candle grouping) with the brown meat inside and spilling over the plate. Kids won’t touch the ampalaya, though. But its crunchy and not very bitter, I tell them.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 12:39 pm

  27. zena says:

    Wow! I love the plethora of version we have here! Ours is redder and a bit saucier, but I don’t like raisins, hehe, so i have peas instead. I think the sweetness of the bananas will suffice.
    Whatever the version, this simple dish is endearing to us because of the childhood memories attached, as Marketman says. One whiff and it’s back to our childhood. And what Pinoy out there can say no to rice with egg, eh? =) I am having this tomorrow!

    Oct 30, 2007 | 12:47 pm

  28. cumin says:

    Thanks, Myra P. I’ve seen black sitao in Farmer’s and will get some next time I’m in the area.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 1:16 pm

  29. lee says:

    my wife loves this

    Oct 30, 2007 | 3:03 pm

  30. joey says:

    My whole family loves this! My whole family except for me…I have issues with ground meat that isn’t formed into something…I know, I’m weird that way…so I just eat the egg :)

    Oct 30, 2007 | 8:27 pm

  31. sue says:

    thanks for the post MM.i will try this tonight.

    Oct 30, 2007 | 9:22 pm

  32. George says:

    I cook mine with a tablespoon of cumin! works wonders

    Oct 31, 2007 | 8:37 am

  33. lojet says:

    Another one here who has been making it or a version of it and didn’t know what it is called. I use sweet plantains cut into 4 inch strips and fried. After sauteeing the giniling meatloaf mix (pork, beef and veal) with onions, garlic, and tomatoes and letting it dry out a bit, I season with soy sauce,add raisins, thawed peas and the fried bananas and garnish with thin strips of red pepper. I like to mix the bananas with the meat while cooking as they absorb some of the sauce.

    Some Spanish restos around here (NYC) also stuff the giniling mixture on split (lenghtwise) plantains and then baked. I think they fry the plantains first before stuffing as they look brown.

    Oct 31, 2007 | 10:31 am

  34. cc says:

    There is no doubt many varieties. Finely diced garlic, browned but not entirely crisped, add finely diced yellow onions, sautéed, add sirloin beef, mix until nicely brown, add diced golden potatoes, add Worchester steak sauce, mix, golden raisins (if you like it sweet) or raisins for a deeper flavor, less than a pinch of ground pepper, and add chopped peanuts.

    Can serve with rice, scrambled eggs, and slices of glazed saba banana. Or alternatively, for go rice and serve on a large lettuce leaf.

    Chop crispy golden apples and eat with glace pecans.

    A different take on the many varieties.

    MM, try this version and give us your opinion.

    Oct 31, 2007 | 1:30 pm

  35. cc says:

    that’s ground sirloin.

    Oct 31, 2007 | 1:31 pm

  36. arlene says:

    I put some sesame oil on mine, it makes it more flavorful. One of the faves in the family. With diced carrots, potatoes and red bell pepper, looks nice & kids eat the veggies.

    Oct 31, 2007 | 7:35 pm

  37. brenda says:

    aysus, pag sa karinderya, giniling tawag sa dish na yan. sarap nyan sa pandesal

    Nov 1, 2007 | 10:03 pm

  38. Ted says:

    We call this dish picadillo at the evening meal and tortang picadillo following morning when there’s left overs ;-)

    Nov 2, 2007 | 5:39 am

  39. DADD-F says:

    Ay Brenda,totoo ka. Hahaha…. Ted, simple lang ano?

    But it’s real nice to know of the many variations of this dish. I use cumin as well or whatever suits my fancy, or whatever may be available.

    Thanks guys, MM, for sharing your wonderful takes on this dish! Good morning.

    Nov 4, 2007 | 11:12 am

  40. munchkin mommy says:

    hi MM! i followed your version when i made this dish about two weeks ago…only i didn’t have ground pork and my husband and daughter aren’t fond of green peas, so no green peas. :D at any rate, my regular customers (hubby and daughter) loved it! you might want to take a look if you’re not too busy: http://munchkincafe.thesserie.com/2007/11/14/arroz-a-la-cubana/

    thanks! :D

    Nov 15, 2007 | 12:43 am

  41. gigi bayuga says:

    Arroz a-la cubana was a Sunday treat for us while growing up. While living in Manila our mom would always have this meal at least once a month. Whenever we return to Manila to visit we still ask for this dish to be cooked with all the trimmings,chorizo bilbao, saging saba, shoestring potatoes and fried egg crisp on the sides. Memories of child hood at 55 years old.

    Nov 28, 2007 | 5:44 pm

  42. Beringil says:

    OIC, didn’t know its origin and name! My wife have been cooking this with similar ingredients plus red bell pepper and calls it simply as “giniling”. Now, we can make it sound like a special dish when our kids are home!

    Dec 1, 2007 | 7:01 am

  43. Imeon says:

    We usually have this dish once a month….very affordable and easy to cook…we use boiled quail egg instead…my kids love it!!!

    Dec 5, 2007 | 6:21 pm

  44. JOSE MIGUEL C. ABAD says:

    Our family in have the same preparation of Arroz ala Cubana the same cup molded rice surrounded with ground beef and pork in tomato sauce, but we add chorizo de bilbao, pimiento, and topped with fried eggs. It’s best eaten with fried danggit, misua soup w/ pork liver flavored in ginger and fried bananas for dessert. It’s a complete meal and so yummy.

    Jul 4, 2008 | 4:10 pm


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