For more than three hundred years, the Spanish invasion and occupation in the Philippines heavily influenced many facets of our culture. From the surnames that we bear up to the traditions that we still practice today. But most notable of these influences can be seen in our dishes and how these dishes were named.
One of them is our featured recipe for this article, a rice casserole dish named Arroz A la Cubana. Although the origin is debatable, the source and the spices present in the dish are undeniably Spanish. Since the Philippines also has Spain a long history of influence, adapted and made this recipe one of our own.
The dish's name is somehow intimidating, but as to how it is prepared and cooked is somewhat easy to execute. So I hope you are excited as we share the things you need to know on how you can cook the Cuban-style rice at home.
What is Arroz A la Cubana
Arroz a la Cubana is roughly translated as "Cuban rice," called Arroz, meaning rice and Cubana, which means Cuban. If this came from the country of Cuba is still up for debate up to this day. Nevertheless, we are sure that the flavors are of Spanish descent.
One look at a serving of this rice dish and you can not help but wonder how complex the flavor might be. And the choice of colors for the dish is equally enticing. And judging from the ingredients used in this recipe, we are guaranteed that this is a full meal on a plate. Fried eggs, tomatoes, rice, and plantains, what more can you ask for?
Meanwhile, our version, the Filipino take on this Hispanic classic, is a little different. This is because Filipinos love dishes that have pork in it. That is why the variant we have here in our beloved country contains ground pork or beef aside from the classic popular recipes in Cuba.
Ways to Cook
Cuban Style Rice is a dish so versatile and flexible that it can be made in multiple ways. Also, to have a creative mind and guts to experiment with which method will be more efficient and effective. And since the ingredients are simple and easy to procure, one can even add to the elements to create their version.
So to give you a headstart and tickle your imagination a bit, we have listed a few possible ways so you can also make this dish.
Baked Cuban Style Rice Peppers
If you're wondering how you can level up the presentation and execute these classic Hispanic inspired recipes? Why not stuff them inside bell peppers and bake them for added flavor and a unique expression.
Turning away from the traditional approach in serving Cuban Style, which is the usual topping of the fried eggs above the rice and the meat mixture on the side along with the fried plantains, why not mix them all up like fried rice and stuff that goodness inside a bell pepper. This way, the mixture will absorb the peppers' natural sweetness for an additional layer of flavors.
Baking the bell peppers also adds a smoky flavor to the rice, which has already absorbed the flavors of the tomato and the ground beef as well as the egg and plantains.
This way, you will break the monotony of serving this classic recipe the traditional way, which gets boring in the same way every time.
Skillet Cuban Style Rice
Having an iron skillet in your cookware gives you an opportunity of making a wide variety of recipes. One of them is the Cuban Style and serves them directly from the same skillet. Serving this dish in a skillet adds to the rustic yet elegant feel of this recipe.
There is a little deviation from the original recipe as you will be making the dish closer to how you cook fried rice at home. The steps are pretty much alike except that you need to incorporate the rice into the mixture and then finish the oven's process.
The good thing about using a skillet is its ability to retain heat better, so you are assured that your dish can still be eaten warm even after removing it from the stove or oven. This is because the skillet is made of iron, making it a good conductor of heat, spreading the heat evenly across the cookware's surface.
Other Delicious Variants of Cuban Style Rice Recipe
Because of its simplicity and the plenty of ingredients readily available for cooking, Cuban Style, no wonder many variants have come out since its inception. And we have a list of these variants that you experiment with, and who knows, you might come up with your variant. So here are some of them to give you an idea.
Cuban Style Rice Gallina Blanca Recipe
This variant's name can indeed be intimidating, but trust us when we say that it is a relatively simple variation of the original recipe. Gallina Blanca is translated as "white chicken," so to make things simpler, this variant uses chicken meat in place of the usual ground beef or pork.
This variation is milder in flavor because of the ground beef substitution in favor of leaner chicken meat. But in a sense, this is healthier since chicken meat contains less cholesterol and saturated fat than red meats. And from an economic perspective, chicken meat is way cheaper than beef or pork.
The process is no different from the recipes' initial steps; the only deviation is chicken meat. For maximum flavor, marinating the meat in fish sauce and lemon juice for about 15 mins can bring out the chicken's natural flavors as they tend to be bland on their own. Of course, the eggs and plantains won't be missing.
Cuban Style Rice Gratinado Recipes
Gratinado derived its name from the culinary technique called gratin, a method in which an ingredient is topped with a mixture of breadcrumbs, cheese, eggs, or butter that is then browned until it forms a crust, which is achieved by baking.
Preparing our recipe this way takes the recipe one notch as the crust formed on top of the mixture is not just for the show. This cheesy and creamy crust compliments the savory and robust flavor of the rice mixture.
This method's preparation differs from the usual and more closely resembles a fried rice approach as you mix the ingredients and saute them in order until they are cooked halfway through. The gratin mixture is then scooped over the rice to form a crust or topping.
This Cuban variant of Arroz a la Cubana is not to be confused with each other. The Cuban Style is different from the traditional recipe as the latter uses beef or pork and is not mixed with the rice. On the other hand, Cuban Arroz closely resembles a paella, a dish mixed with seafood.
This variant needs to be sauteed and the eggs and plantains, which is different from the original recipe. The chicken is deepened in flour and fried until it turns light brown. This also helps in drawing out the flavor from the chicken.
The rest of the ingredients, such as eggs and plantains, are sauteed in oil, and the rice is added along with your choice of broth and cooked until the rice is fluffed up. The spices that can be used are dependent on your preference.
Trivias are always fun to read, especially when it comes to food; as we learn more about them, our appreciation for these foods also deepens.
Did you know that the Philippines and Cuba, where it is said that our dish came from, shares a Hispanic heritage being a colony of Spain for the same length of colonial rule? So it will be safe to say that our beloved nation is a twin to Cuba socio-historically speaking.
Troubleshooting in cooking Cuban Style Rice Recipes
If you encounter any troubles or perhaps a mistake making Cuban Style, don't fret too much because we have tested troubleshooting tips to remedy those problems.
- Tomato-sauce based dishes tend to get too sour when too much tomato sauce is used. To remedy this dilemma, adding a few tablespoons of sugar will do the trick.
- If the tomato sauce is too runny, the culprit is probably the addition of too much broth. Adding a few spoonfuls of a slurry of cornstarch and water will help thicken the sauce.
Tips for cooking Cuban Style Rice Recipe
And since we want you to be an expert in making this Hispanic inspired Filipino classic, we also listed down some time-tested culinary tips that can help you master Cuban Style.
- Adding beaten eggs to the sauce mixture can help thicken the sauce and provide additional savoriness to the recipes.
- A dash of cayenne pepper can work wonders on this classic recipe.
- Instead of using just tomato sauce, why not use canned tomatoes for fuller flavor.
Best Served With
Cuban Style is a full meal on its own, but we can enjoy even further, especially when paired with a few of these classic Filipino offerings.
- Pata Tim- For a festive meal, partnering Cuban Style with this Chinese-inspired classic is sure to make you feel like traveling earlier time. The sweet and salty pork dish directly contrasts with the slightly tangy flavor of our star recipes.
- Chicken Dynamite Lumpia- The crunchy and spicy flavor profile of the lumpia complements the flavorful Cuban Style. It's like a feast in every spoonful.
Looking at our culinary masterpieces, we cannot help but say that our culture is truly a melting pot of different heritage, which makes a unique race. And knowing how to make these classic recipes makes us appreciate and love our identity even more.
So with all the information and tips we have shared with you, we hope you are now more confident in making the classic Cuban Style. And we are more than sure that this dish is no longer a complicated one for you. Till next time, happy cooking!
For more delicious recipe, visit Eat Like Pinoy!
- 1 lb Ground beef
- 4 cloves Garlic minced
- 1 pc Onion minced
- 1 ½ teaspoon Cooking oil
- ½ cup Potatoes diced
- ¼ cup Carrots diced
- ½ cup Corn whole
- ½ cup Tomato sauce
- 4 cups Cooked rice
- 4 pcs Fried egg
- 4 pcs Saba banana cut in half
- 1 cup Water
- Heat oil in a cooking pan.
- Once the oil is hot, fry the eggs then the bananas until brown. Transfer in a plate, then set aside.
- Remove some oil from the pan and saute garlic until brown. Add the onions and ground beef, and cook until the beef turns brown.
- Pour-in water and let it boil for 30 minutes. Then lower the heat.Note: Add more water if needed.
- Then add tomato sauce, potatoes, carrots, and corn. Stir well and cook for another 20 minutes. Wait until the water evaporates. Set aside.
- Prepare a plate. Put the cooked rice in the middle of the plate and the fried egg on top of the rice. Then add the cooked ground beef on the side and 2 pieces of fried banana of the other side of the plate.
- Eat while hot. Enjoy!