Arroz Cubano is comfort food at its best

Arroz Cubano, or Cuban Rice, is a popular and fuss-free Latin meal. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

By Louise Liebenberg

SOME dishes sound hideous beyond words, but when you actually try them you get a pleasant surprise… and they may even become a firm family favourite.

One such dish, for me, is a simple  Latin American and Spanish favourite known as Arroz Cubano, or Arroz a la Cubana.

This, translated, simply means Cuban rice, even though I have never been able to establish whether it is indeed a dish with Cuban origins or not.

It’s not altogether inconceivable though, as many Spaniards historically travelled to Cuba, made their fortunes there and then returned to Spain bringing not only riches, but also cultural and culinary influences from the Caribbean.

Arroz Cubano is so simple it’s laughable – in fact it’s so simple it would be laughable to place a recipe for it. It is basically a dish made up of cooked short-grained rice (Spain has a fantastic variety called Calasparra, which is grown in the mountains), a fried egg or two and a sweetish tomato sauce called “tomate frito”. It’s not easy to find tomate frito in South Africa but you can either make your own sweetish, basic tomato sauce, or you can cheat and do as I do by using some chunky tomato chutney from Woolworths. I have in the past also used tomato pesto and while the texture and sweetness worked fine, tomato pesto does have more of an Italian flavour (thanks to the basil) which doesn’t quite work for me given Arroz Cubano is a Spanish dish.

The dish is usually also served with a fried banana, which adds an interesting dimension and, let’s be honest, is my favourite part!

If all of that sounds less than appetising, rest assured Arroz Cubano is  far greater than the sum of its parts. For me and Salvelio it’s the ultimate comfort food, the kind of meal you can make with your eyes closed and which goes down really well if you’ve had a  rough day at work or have had your fill of fancy food.

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