Arroz a la Cubana Arroz a la CubanaI’m re-posting this recipe for two reasons. First, this photo is better than the old one. Second, I wanted to create links to the other saba banana recipes that have accumulated since I first posted this wonderful rice dish called Arroz a la Cubana. I don’t really know if it originated from Cuba but I know it by no other name. I only know that this dish was introduced to the Philippines by the Spaniards. “Arroz” means rice. Arroz a la Cubana is basically a stew using ground beef instead of chunks, and served with fried egg (sunny side up!), slices of fried saba bananas and steamed or boiled rice.

Saba banana has thick yellow-brownish skin and is never eaten raw. It can be boiled or steamed in its skin, peeling it just before eating. As a dessert or snack, it can be boiled minus its skin in water and brown sugar (in this form, it can be bottled and preserved); fried with brown sugar and skewered on bamboo sticks (banana-que); dipped in a mixture of flour and egg, fried then rolled in sugar (maruya); or used whole, usually with jackfruit, as an egg roll filling then deep-fried (turon). Another popular sweet snack, guinataang halo-halo, has chunks of saba, kamote (sweet potatoes), sago (tapiocal balls) and bilo-bilo (sticky rice balls) in thick coconut milk. Finally, the most recent addition to my medley of saba banana dessert, from a recipe sent by reader Sam, saba bananas with honey, sweetened condensed milk and cinnamon.

As an ingredient to an entree, it is peeled, fried separately then mixed with tomato based stews like pochero (Spanish beef stew), or served on the side, as with Arroz a la Cubana. It is so versatile and, if cooked at the correct stage of ripeness, it is soft, sweet and really delicious. Arroz a la Cubana is rather plain without it.


  • Steamed or boiled rice
    1/2 kilo ground beef (use sirloin or top round)
    3 carrots, cubed
    3 potatoes, cubed
    1/2 c. of sweet peas
    2 bell peppers, chopped
    2 tbsp. of raisins (optional)
    1 tbsp. minced garlic
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 tomatoes, chopped
    1/4 c. of tomato paste
    finely chopped parsley
    pinch of basil
    3 tbsp. c. of olive oil
    1/4 c. vegetable cooking oil
    salt and pepper to taste
    4 eggs, fried sunny-side-up
    8 saba bananas, each sliced diagonally into 3, fried


  1. Heat a heavy skillet. Add 1/4 c. of cooking oil. Heat to smoking point. Add the cubed potatoes and carrots. Fry until the edges turn a light brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

    Pour off the oil from the skillet. Pour in the olive oil. Add ground beef, breaking it up. Cook over high heat until the meat is no longer pink. Add the garlic, chopped onions and tomatoes, bell peppers and raisins, if using. Cook, stirring, just until the vegetables start to soften. Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir to blend well. Add the sweet peas. Stir and cook for another 30 seconds then put the carrots and potatoes back in. Cook for another 30 seconds. Add the basil and parsley. Give it one last stir then turn off the heat.

    Serve with rice, an egg and fried saba bananas on the side.

Cooking time (duration): 45 minutes (including time to cook eggs and saba bananas)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Meal type: supper