Friday, January 12, 2007

cuban yellow rice

this is a staple side dish not only in cuba but also many other latin american countries. there are several variations for this particular rice recipe. what i am showing here is just one of them, and is the side dish served for friday night's dinner by a colleague of mine whose family lived in the small nation of cuba for many years.

to obtain the yellow colour, it is traditionally made with achiote or annato (oil) but for the sabbath my friend's family always used saffron — the more expensive and luxurious of the two, i was told. served alongside a chicken dish of some sort, this rice was always made with some of the broth from the chicken soup and, of course, fresh peas. today, for convenience's sake, frozen peas are used.

to read more about the jews of cuba, here is a very interesting short history. while most have already left the country, there is still a community living there whose origins are both ashkenazi and sephardi (turkish). another link in spanish is here and one more in english. interestingly, canadian jewish organizations have provided much help over the years to the jewish community in cuba [where i imagine american ones could not easily do so due to cuban-u.s. political relations].

* * * * *

cuban yellow rice

you need to use a rice which will not get "mushy" or soft for this dish. the best choice is a parboiled rice — otherwise known as converted. its grains are straw coloured or slightly yellowish due to its processing. the other ingredient you will need is saffron [or annato seed oil].


1 c parboiled rice (like uncle ben's type)
1 small red pepper
1 small onion
3 small cloves garlic
2 - 3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 c frozen peas
1/8 tsp saffron, ground or 2 tbsp annato oil
3 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 c chicken or vegetable stock, or water

*notes before starting:
  • if using salted stock or bouillon cubes, use less salt;
  • you can replace red pepper with green pepper;
  • if you like spicy rice, add jalapeño pepper or use part hot paprika;
  • you can add a few diced mushrooms;
  • you can use a small amount of turmeric to colour the rice instead of saffron or annato;
  • if you are doubling the recipe, do not double the water for the saffron [only the saffron].

measure out the spices. in a separate small dish, place the ground saffron and the 3 tbsp boiling water to steep. it will turn a deep yellow. be careful, it stains.

measure out the rice and set it aside.

chop the onion, garlic and red pepper into small dice. add 2 - 3 tbsp oil to a pan and fry it for 10 minutes over medium low heat or until the onion softens and becomes translucent.

add the rice and cook another 3 to 4 minutes until the rice becomes translucent and more brittle.

carefully add the spices and the saffron (or annato oil) and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute until the saffron water, if using, is absorbed and the rice turns a deep yellow.

add the water and the frozen peas and mix well. place a lid on the pan and cook it for 20 minutes over very low heat.

let the rice rest for 10 to 15 minutes undisturbed, taking it off the heat. afterwards, remove the lid and carefully redistribute the rice to fluff it up.



Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love that kind of rice dish (see my "Arroz Brasileiro" recipe which is very similar)! I make it with jerk chicken, meatloaf or just eat it alone...

I like your version.

burekaboy — said...

rosa - will check it out :) love rice dishes, too. i usually end up just eating it alone. i should start making it after i make the main dish instead of before! ;D

Beenzzz said...

I had no idea there was a Jewish community in Cuba. You learn something new every day! This rice looks really yummy and simple to make. Any recommendations on what it would go well with? Maybe chicken or fish of some kind??

Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

There is also a chinese cuban poulation in Cuba. One of my favorite restaurants here in NYC is La Caridad (, a Cuban-Chinese melange. They serve braised oxtail or beef in a tomato sauce or beef with onions and peppers with the yellow rice. Hmmm!

Cheryl said...

Mmmm, yummy. Now I'm definitely going to make something with rice and chicken stock this weekend. Your photos are always so delicious!

burekaboy — said...

beenzzz - the jewish population in cuba has been there for many, many years. they also live(d) with quite low rates of anti-semitism my friend says (the article attests to this also).

i usually serve this with some baked or roasted chicken dish. haven't tried it with fish but it's a good idea ;P

tbtam - hey there :) never even would have entertained the idea of a chinese population in cuba! very interesting. cuban chinese fusion sounds pretty good. thanks for the link, also. i will look at it. those dishes you mentioned sound GREAT :))

ostara - looking forward to hearing about your cooking adventures this weekend :) is sam lending a hand, i mean paw??

Anonymous said...

nyam. that made me happy... :)

TNL said...

This stuff is so good...when we lived in Florida, We always used to get this rice with some authentic black beans..and they served a homemade sauce to go with it..It was deadly!
Your rice looks great..thanks for the detailed instructions..

burekaboy — said...

hey trupti - lol, from florida to nfld! what a change of locale :)

i bet that sauce was muy picante!! i like those things. didn't think of black beans though i should have ;D this is the way my friends prepare it, usually. i bet the way you had it in florida is amazingly good :)) florida is the place to be for cuban expat food. thanks for your nice words.

burekaboy — said...

sarina - hope you were dancing around while you wrote that :D

Anonymous said...

I guess I liked this rice so much that I made it and wrote it in my blog!, Im a rice lover but I dont like any recipe, this one I loved it!, maybe because of the caribean spaniard tastes in there and a big plus is NOT TO MUCH FAT. Great recipe BB.

burekaboy — said...

hey muchacho - WOW, i'm glad to hear that :)) it's one of my favourite rice dishes, too. i will tell my friends that you liked it; i'm sure that will make them happy to hear. you're right, it's also low in fat — much healthier.

voy a venir a ver lo que escribiste. muchas gracias a ti por mentionarme en tu blog, es muy sympatico de tu parte. :) mas importante es que ... you liked it! LOL :))

Anonymous said...

Thanks muchas gracias por el libro BB. I really will go to the bookstore this week and will see if they have it or some other books about rice, last december I went at 2 bookstores and I looked for something about rice recipes and none of those had a single one. This time hope will be different because I want one of this books. :)

Anonymous said...

I've been 3 times looking for this book BB and haven't seen it at the bookstores. I'll go today and see if they have it, if not I'll buy it online, is an awesome book. I made my research already. Hope all is ok.

burekaboy — said...

hey roberto - i'm a little surprised it's not in the stores as it was very popular (but i guess the key word here is WAS :p). glad you like how it looks; it's one of my fave books. all is well. hope with you, too.

Anonymous said...

hey this looks interesting!
also, i've noticed that lots of your posts don't say how many people one can feed with the amounts given. would be really helpful to include that, at least for me. ok, this one is easy to work out, because you have one cup of rice (therefore two people?)... thanks! :)

burekaboy — said...

maninas - most people really seem to like this dish. it's best when made with the chicken stock i find but vegetable stock or water can substitute fine.

sorry about not including portion yields! i've been bad about doing that. lol, jewish cooking portions: makes enough for an army plus the relatives hehe. i have been better lately about not forgetting to add the yield.

this can easily serve 2 to 4, or 5 people. i'd say it's more suited to four to five 1/2 c portions.