Last week, I wrote about Colombian beans and lentils, and one of the ingredients in both dishes is something Colombians refer to as “hogao.” Hogao is to Colombians what sofrito is to Spaniards, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans — kind of. It’s a huge deal in Colombian cooking because it’s the base of a few dishes — such as beans, lentils, stew, beef and chicken — but also served alongside many dishes, including arepas and the country’s signature dish, bandeja paisa.
Cooks who prepare hogao tend to have their own versions. For example, some cooks will use scallions rather than yellow onions, and some will add food coloring or cumin, but the base itself is always made with tomato. Here is Mama Gomez’s version, which she taught me and has continued to be a huge help in my kitchen.
I prefer to chop up all my ingredients before starting, but Mama Gomez chops quickly and throws stuff in as she goes along. Coat the pan with vegetable oil and place over medium heat. Let it get hot. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano and cilantro.
Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until softened. Reduce to a low heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring gently until the sauce thickens. Serve alongside or add to a dish, but before you do, breathe in that aroma and know that you’ve just successfully prepared an important Colombian staple.
Yields approximately 2 cups