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What Is Arroz a La Cubana?

By Elle Jay
Updated May 16, 2024
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Arroz a la Cubana describes a traditional Spanish rice dish, also known as Cuban-style rice or arroz Cubano. The basic ingredients include rice, ground beef or beans, tomato sauce, and fried eggs, but other items are sometimes added. Despite its name, there is no real evidence that this dish came from Cuba, although it is a staple in many Cuban households. Arroz a la Cubana is popular in Spain, Peru, and the Philippines, and it can be cooked in a variety of ways, usually from recipes passed down the family tree.

Some standard Spanish recipes for arroz a la Cubana eliminate the protein and include just plain white rice, tomato sauce, and the eggs. The rice is steamed or boiled, and the sauce can be prepared in several different ways. Sofrito is a Spanish-style tomato sauce prepared with garlic, onions, and green peppers, all finely chopped and cooked with the tomatoes in Spanish olive oil.

When plating meatless arroz a la Cubana, the rice is scooped on to the plate and an indentation is made in the middle. The sofrito or tomato sauce goes into the hollowed-out center and drizzles down the side of the rice. The fried egg is prepared over easy, which means it is cooked on one side, then flipped and lightly cooked on the other side just enough to cover the yolk. The egg sits atop the rice and tomato sauce mixture.

Filipino recipes for arroz a la Cubana add ground beef to the dish and serve it up with cooked Saba bananas. The saba banana is common in the Philippines, and it is usually fried with the skin on, then peeled, sliced, and placed on the side of the plate. In this version of arroz Cubano, the fried eggs are sunny side up, and the bright yellow yolk is left uncovered.

Since this is a traditional dish, arroz a la Cubana ingredients can vary, depending on who is cooking and where they live. Some Cuban-style rice dishes include extras, such as fried potato chunks, bell peppers, raisins, and sweet peas. These additions are usually sautéed with the ground beef and plated on one side of the rice. The bananas go on the other side, and the eggs still go on top.

Few Cubans will stake a claim to Cuban-style rice dishes cooked with ground beef and tomato sauce. Genuine Cuban rice is actually called Moros y Christianos, which translates to Moors and Christians, also known as black beans and rice. Ingredients in this traditional Cuban meal include white rice and black beans, which are prepared with garlic, onions, ham hocks, salt pork, and a variety of herbs and spices. This version eliminates the ground beef, tomato sauce, and egg, and the beans are poured over or mixed with the rice.

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