There was a time, during the mad cow scare a few years back, that we pretty much stopped eating beef, especially ox tails. And that was a major bummer. When I think about going completely vegetarian, one of the first things I think about is how much I would miss eating ox tail soup. And prosciutto.
Whenever go to Hawaii, ox tail soup is one of the meals I must have within the first 48 hours of toes touching sand. In Hawaii, it's done up Chinese style; the soup is garnished with grated fresh ginger (puh-lenty), cilantro, chili pepper, vinegared soy sauce, and chopped green onions.
If you like beef stew or pot roast or any dish made with tougher cuts of beef, I would venture to say you'd like ox tails, too. Below is a slight riff on the version my mom makes, and down the line I will post my recipe for tomato-y, red wine-infused Roman-style ox tails.
Ox tails are usually available from any old school butcher. You might also find them at Costco (mine carries them) and most definitely at larger Korean grocery stores.
OX TAIL SOUP HAWAIIAN-CHINESE STYLE
The soup is a snap to make once you have the ingredients. The peanuts and jujubes are essential to the flavor and can be found at any Chinese market. (In 2008, please get to know the Chinese market in the city you are in or the city nearest you. Don't be intimidated if you've never been, there are treasures awaiting. If you live in the San Francisco area, email me and I will tell you where to go.)
To get maximum flavor, start making this soup a day before you want to serve it. I started the soup in the evening, let it sit covered on the stove overnight (I'm like that), then had the pot (covered tightly) on low for the entire next day starting in the morning and we ate it at dinnertime. It was sooo good.
Serve with steamed rice on the side (or in the bowl if you are me!)
- 6-8 lbs of meaty oxtails (at least two per adult)
- 1 lb. of chicken legs or thighs
- 8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled (leave whole)
- 5-6 jujubes (aka dried Chinese dates)
- 1 bag of raw peanuts (shelled and skinned) (about 10 oz.)
- sesame oil
Garnish: a 2-3 inch piece of ginger peeled and grated, chopped cilantro leaves, sliced jalapeños, minced green onions, soy sauce for drizzling.
Preheat oven to 375º.
Place ox tails in an ovenproof covered pot or Dutch oven, drizzle with sesame oil, season with salt, and toss in garlic. Roast covered for 2 hours until oxtails are tender but not falling off the bone. (Note: you can skip this step and just cook the ox tails along with the chicken below, but I like the flavor of the roasted ox tails.)
Meanwhile, put chicken and jujubes in a large pot and add 12 cups of cold water. Simmer for the two hours that the ox tails are in the oven (you are making a broth). Skim foam as needed. After two hours remove chicken. Reserve for another use. Skim oil. Add ox tails plus any accumulated juice (strain and skim fat if you like). Cover pot and continue simmering on low for at least 2 hours, but preferably all day (8 hours). Season with salt to taste—the soup will require lots to bring out its full flavor. Don't skimp on the salt. It will take more than you think.
About an hour before serving add peanuts and cover pot again. Skim oil as needed. (You can refrigerate soup to make it easier.) Remove jujubes before serving.
To serve, place two ox tails in a large bowl, ladle in some broth making sure to scoop in some peanuts. Garnish as desired. Serves 6.