The Happy Home Cook: Arroz A La Cubana

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Arroz A La Cubana in a skillet (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Arroz A La Cubana in a skillet (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

On June 24, 1898 in Philippine history, when the colonial Spanish forces surrendered to General Gregorio del Pilar’s Bulakan sa Brigada, the general’s family cooks got busy preparing a feast for the Katipuneros to celebrate the victorious event. One of the dishes prepared was Arroz A La Cubana, made of ground meat, sautéed in onions, garlic, potatoes, raisins served with plenty of rice, saging saba and “estralyadong itlog” (sunny side eggs). This kitchen anecdote was told by the cooks of the kumbento who were grandparents of the Enriquez family cook. (From the cookbook “Kasaysayan ng Kaluto ng Bayan” by Milagros S. Enriquez).

My modern version of Arroz Ala Cubana was handed down by my late mother and grandmother and is a nearly similar recipe to the 19th century one.

Serves 4


corn oil or vegetable oil - 4 Tablespoons
garlic - 2 cloves, peeled, minced
onion - 1 large, chopped fine
ground beef - 1/2 pound
ground pork - 1/2 pound
Worcestershire sauce (or Perrins) - 2 Tablespoons
tomato sauce - 1 can (8 ounces)
soup stock or broth - 1 cup
potato - 1 or 2 large pieces, peeled, diced for about 1 cup
raisins - 1/2 cup
sea salt - 1 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper - 1 teaspoon
plantains (fully ripened bananas) in syrup - 2 to 3 large pieces, peeled (saging na saba)
brown sugar - 1/2 cup, for syrup of plantains
water - 1 cup, for syrup of plantains
eggs - 4 pieces, cooked sunny side or fried, for serving
boiled jasmine white rice - for serving
tomato or banana catsup - for serving

Arroz A La Cubana served (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Arroz A La Cubana served (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)


  • In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add the cooking oil. When oil is hot enough after about 2 minutes, sauté the garlic and onions till the latter is translucent.

  • Add the ground beef and pork. Sprinkle the meats with Worcestershire sauce. Blend ingredients well.

  • Add the tomato sauce and soup stock to the meat. Add the diced potatoes. Mix till the sauce is incorporated all around. Lower heat to a slow simmer. Let the liquid reduce in the meat and potatoes and cook for about 40 minutes over very low fire.

  • Add the raisins. Season with salt and black pepper powder. Serve alongside boiled rice, sweet plantains in syrup and fried eggs.

  • How to boil plantains in syrup: peel the fully ripened plantains and place the whole pieces in a medium-sized stockpot. Add the brown sugar and water. Combine the liquid and sugar well. Over medium heat, cook for 8 to 10 minutes till liquid has a syrup-like consistency and the bananas are soft. When cooked, drain and set aside the syrup. Serve the plantains with the Arroz A La Cubana.

Cook's Comments: For this recipe, make sure plantains are fully ripened, with no hint of green in them. Here in America, banana plantains are found in Asian markets or major supermarkets. In the Philippines, they are called "saging saba".

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey is a journalist and author of the “How to Cook Philippine Desserts: Cakes and Snacks” Cookbook. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and blogs about Filipino home cooking on her site

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