Oxtail has always been an ingredient I was reluctant to work with. Maybe it’s the size of the bone or the fact that it’s essentially the tail of a cow, but I always passed by it in the supermarket without a second glance. However, I recently paid a trip to the new butcher store across my workplace and saw some of the freshest I’ve ever seen! With such good quality oxtail, I couldn’t resist buying some to try it out. I knew that here in Malaysia, oxtail is commonly used to make Malay-style oxtail soup or Sup Ekor, which literally translates to Tail Soup. But hardly did I see any Chinese recipes which incorporate this ingredient.
Therefore, I decided to cook this oxtail soup Chinese-style, with LOADS of aromatics, two different types of soy sauce and serve it over noodles with a side of bok choy on the top! When it comes to soup, pork spare ribs are normally used as the more bone is attached to the meat, the more flavorful the soup will be. Which is why using oxtail will impart plenty of lovely umami into the soup, considering all that bone it comes with. Feel free to replace it with spare ribs or chicken wings to try out a different flavor. As for the noodles, you could definitely hand make yours for that personalised texture, however for the majority of us who are lazy….packaged ones will do just fine!
When choosing your oxtail, try to get one with less fat as you want to ensure your soup is relatively clear and free of too many impurities. If you were to make a stew, extra fat should be fine as oxtail in general does come with a lot of fat around it. If you feel it’s too much, you could even ask your butcher to carve some of it off for you. But try to refrain from buying oxtail or any meat in general which is grey, dark brown or just smells off. If you’d like the soup spicy, soak 4-5 dried chillies in warm water before chopping them up into large pieces and frying them along with the spices, ginger and garlic in the first step.
Imbued with spices throughout and salted to perfection, this noodle soup is absolutely perfect on a cold, rainy day. Reminiscent of a very savory, Christmassy ramen, give it a go at dinnertime at let us know what you think!
Soy-Braised Oxtail Noodle Recipe
- 500 g of Oxtail chopped into 1-2 inch sized steak cuts
- 3 packs of noodles depending on the amount of people you’re serving
- 2 heads of bok choy
- 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 2 inch knob of ginger
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 5 whole star anise
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- ¼ cup of light soy sauce
- 3 tbsp of dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of rock sugar
- 1 tbsp of white pepper
Ingredients for the marinade:
- 1 inch knob of ginger grated
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tbsp of salt
- ¾ tbsp of white pepper
- Marinate the oxtail - place oxtail pieces into bowl with grated ginger, light soy sauce, salt and white pepper
- Saute the ginger, garlic, star anise and cinnamon sticks for 2-3 minutes
- Sear the oxtail
- Add soy source into the pot
- Fry on medium for 2-3 minutes
- Braise for 3 hours
- Boil the noodles and vegetables
STEP ONE – MARINATING THE OXTAIL
Place the oxtail pieces into a bowl along with the grated ginger, light soy sauce, salt and white pepper. Massage it gently with your hands to ensure the meat is fully covered in the marinade. Cover with a damp cloth or cling wrap and let it sit in the fridge overnight or at least 6 hours.
STEP TWO – SAUTE THE AROMATICS
Peel and slice the ginger lengthwise and peel the skins off the garlic. A good way to do this is to place your knife sideways on the garlic and use the base of your palm to bash it. The skin will naturally come off and the slight crushing of the garlic will release more of its flavor. On a low heat, add the vegetable oil and saute the ginger, garlic, star anise and cinnamon sticks for 2-3 minutes till lightly fragrant. Refrain from cooking them too long as they will continue to cook while the oxtail is searing.
STEP THREE – SEARING THE OXTAIL
Turn the heat up to medium-high and place the oxtail pieces in. If you see the spices becoming slightly burnt at this stage it’s alright to remove them first and add them in at step 4. When one side has turned a lovely golden brown, flip it to the other side to let that side brown as well. Sear the edges of the oxtail pieces as well if they’ve been cut relatively thick.
STEP FOUR – ADDING THE SAUCES
Add both the light soy sauce and the dark soy sauce into the pot. Continue to fry on medium for 2-3 minutes. Then, add 1.5 litres of water, rock sugar and bay leaves.
STEP FIVE – BRAISING IT
Turn the heat up to high until it starts to boil, then turn it back down to a very low heat. Cover and allow to braise for at least 3 hours. Check on it and give it a stir every 30 minutes or so while you remove the scum off the surface. You’ll know it’s ready once the meat is tender and starts to slightly come off the bone. At this point, add the white pepper and give it a taste. Add more salt or sugar as needed according to your preference.
STEP SIX – BOILING THE NOODLES AND VEG
Just before serving, boil water in a separate pot and add in whichever noodles you’re using. Halve or quarter the bok choy depending on how big they are. Just before the noodles are done, throw in the bok choy and let them blanch for 1 minute or so. Fish them out and place them into ice-cold water. This stops them from cooking and shocks them to get that bright green color. Cook the noodles till al dente and place them in the bowls.
STEP SEVEN – SERVE!
At this point you’re pretty much done! Just spoon over some soup and oxtail meat over the noodles and place the bok choy on top. Garnish with some white sesame seeds if you’d like and serve it piping hot!
If you’d prefer a different, more thicker style of soup, remove the lid near the end of cooking and turn the heat up to high. Allow the soup to evaporate and add in a cornstarch slurry (3 tbsp cornstarch, 6 tbsp water) and continue to cook on high heat till you reach your desired consistency. Personally, I like my soup slightly sweeter and with a stronger star anise flavor. But it’s important to tweak recipes according to personal preference.
What changes did you make to this recipe? Who did you share it with? Let us know in the comments below, nothing makes us happier than hearing from our readers!