Dominican Sofrito (Base Seasoning)

January 13, 2014

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If you read my previous post, you know that my plan going forward for Lunes Latinos is to share pictures from my recent trip to the Dominican Republic (beware, there are thousands) and of course always include a recipe inspired by my adventures there.

Besides enjoying family, traveling around the country and lying on the beach for hours, my main goal for this trip was to eat, eat, eat. Most times I ate at home as I wanted to enjoy my mom’s sazón (seasoning), so I asked her to cook my favorite dishes. The best part was that I didn’t just get the chance to eat my childhood favorites, but I also got to experience the whole culinary process, from the moment the sofrito (seasoning) hit the pan, to that first heavenly bite.

Because the way we season our food is so important, I decided to start with exactly that, my recipe for sofrito, the base for el sazón Dominicano (Dominican seasoning base). The Dominican sofrito has a few key ingredients that are a must, but it may vary from kitchen to kitchen based on personal preferences or regional traditions. The essential part of our seasoning is that is based on fresh ingredients. Everyone from home cooks, to chefs, to street vendors will use sofrito when cooking true Dominican cuisine.

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One more key ingredient in Dominican food comes from the joy of serving. Dominicans are very friendly people, we find happiness in serving others and we rank among the happiest countries on earth. You may ask yourself how that could be when you hear a lot about poverty and the lack of basic resources that Dominicans face. Well, for us happiness is not always based on our monetary wealth or the country’s GDP, it’s more about the community, the day to day experiences, the moments we get to share with others, the little and the plenty, the things that make us laugh and celebrate. Our spirits are lifted when our favorite baseball team wins, our vecina shares a cafecito with us, our favorite song plays on the radio and makes us dance and sing at the top of our lungs, and when we look up and find ourselves alive under a bright and sunny sky. It is more about wealth of mental well-being, it is more about the little things.

Because Dominicans not only have a great sazón in the kitchen, but also a spice of life that burst with joy, laughter and happiness, I decided to share today pictures from Dominican street vendors and tell you more about the food they happily serve. And remember, it all starts with sofrito… get the recipe below.

*Disclaimer: Most of these pictures were taken in small towns and rural areas. You very well can find all of the below street vendors in certain neighborhoods of big cities but I don’t want to give you the impression that this is how all of the Dominican Republic looks like. I am originally from a small town so I enjoy capturing the idiosyncrasies that make our country quaint.

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This lady makes a living by selling cilantro on the road outside of her home. Wouldn’t you want to smile that big when someone drives by with a camera and simply says: “Adios Doña” (Bye Mrs.)

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One of my favorite recipes on this blog is my Ruby Red Pork Shoulder. This roasted pork you see being served, is the real deal and the dish I based my recipe from.  

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Lobster is not as fancy or expensive as it is in the US when served by the beach under a humble hut.

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This is how fish is sold in the beach. A man walks around with fresh caught fish, you pick your favorite and it will be cooked to your liking.

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They let you take pictures with them too.

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Whole fried fish is my favorite.

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Because we are an island, sometimes you may find people selling fish in the streets too. Not only the beach.

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But is not all about seafood. It is very common to see scenarios like this one, where a man in a corner will be roasting chicken for you to buy whole, in pieces… or however it will make you happy, he said to me.

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A little bit of liquid seasoning goes a long way and it’s the perfect finishing touch.

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This was my plate on a normal Tuesday afternoon as I craved Chicharron (fried pork rinds) but got a little more than I planned for.

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Here is the chicharron being fried

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Want to take a guess at what else I got besides chicharron? Pictured here, I got my fair share of morcilla (blood sausage) and cadeneta, which is braided pork intestines seasoned and broiled.

bofe

If you were a bit disgusted by the previous Dominican delicacy, I hope this is a little less shocking to you. Bofe, which is cooked animal lungs usually from pork, beef or goat. I normally only like it fried so I skipped it this time.

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Continuing with eating parts of animals that may not be as “normal” in the states. Here the street vendor offers me his best pig’s ear on hand.

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Take a look at the shack by the road where typically this kind of food it’s sold. (That’s my brother about to pay for our feast) The bins to his left are where the food is served.

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How it gets sold? Well, people walk by, ask for a plate and they serve themselves whatever they would like to eat and you then pay by the pound.

cadeneta

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