Rice is so important to the Asian culture so much so that the Chinese greeting "Chifanle meiyou?" directly translates as "Have you eaten (rice) yet?". The concept of food revolves around rice and what can be eaten with it. In the Philippines, it is not uncommon to ask or be asked "Ano and ulam ninyo?" which means "What is your viand?" or "What are you eating with rice?". It is not a poking question but, since it is one of the most important daily concerns, people tend to talk about it, much like talking about the weather.
A plate of rice, viand and fried egg is a meal that is very common but it paints a perfect picture of what is regarded as delicious. Add on fried plantains to make that extra delicious. In the Philippines we use Cardaba bananas, which are cooking bananas like plantain and taste practically the same. It is not unusual to serve fried bananas or sweet potatoes with meat dishes.
This dish, arroz ala Cubana translates as Cuban style rice. The rice is plain rice but it is the meat dish, the fried plantain and fried egg that makes the dish what it is. Although it is a Spanish dish, a lot of countries have their own version, each with a twist but still essentially the same.
The recipe is very basic and is actually a very common way of cooking meats. Sautéing the trilogy of garlic, onions and tomatoes (or tomato sauce) is how a lot of Filipino dishes start. From very basic ingredients, a delicious dish can be made by proper cooking methods and timing. Although I cooked this dish Filipino style, I added olives as the Cubans do. That little touch added a lot of extra taste. Other ingredients may be added to this basic recipe. Green peas, sweetcorn or diced potatoes can be added to make the dish go further without making it any less delicious.
The gauge for deliciousness of a dish is how well it goes with rice. If a dish makes you eat a lot of rice, then it is very delicious. I suggest that an extra bowl of rice be served alongside the plated portions just in case.
(for four servings)
2 tbsps. olive oil
1 1/2 tbsps. of crushed garlic
2 large onions, chopped
1/4 tsp. fine salt
500 gms. minced beef
1 tbsp. paprika
1 1/2 tbsps. tomato puree (tomato paste)
1 tbps. dark soy sauce
2 tbsps. light soy sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
2 medium carrots, diced
1/4 c. sultanas or raisins
1/4 c. sherry
20 pimiento stuffed olives, halved
1 small dried bay leaf
1 c. water
2-3 ripe plantains
4 c. (or more) of cooked rice
Sauté the garlic in the 2 tbsps. of olive oil on medium heat until golden in colour. Add in the onions and the 1/4 tsp salt and sauté until soft and translucent.
Add the minced beef, paprika, tomato puree, soy sauces and brown sugar. Sauté on high heat until the mixture is dry (5-10 minutes) and oil exudes from the mixture. Cook further for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is browned.
Add the carrots, sultanas, sherry, olives, bay leaf and water. Stir, cover and lower the heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. You have to watch this and stir occasionally. It tends to catch because of the sugar and the sultanas. You may add more water, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring well to deglaze the pan each time. A caramelized sauce is what we are aiming for so don't add too much liquid at once as it will dilute the flavour.
At the end of 30 minutes, if the meat is already tender but there's still a lot of remaining sauce, turn the heat up to reduce it. This is now done.
Cut the plantains on the slant to make 1/2" thick slices. Pan fry in a little bit of oil, preferrably on a non-stick pan until golden brown and cooked.
Fry the eggs individually as preferred.
To serve, portion 1 c. of rice, a few plantain slices, a fried egg and a quarter of the meat on a plate.
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