Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Spiced oxtail stew

I sometimes wonder if every time an Indonesian hears the word "oxtail",  this will be the first thing pops in his/her mind:

I honestly think it will. There are probably other dishes, such as grilled or fried oxtail, which I`ve never had, but from what I can remember, the oxtail has such an unbreakable bond with the soup as if the only reason why oxtail exists in the first place is because it needs to be cooked in soup. 
Having said that, for the last few weeks I couldn`t help thinking the possibility of cooking the oxtail in spice laden stewing liquid with the depth of brown sugar. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that? And thank goodness it didn`t go wrong! When I finally gave it a try, it was so heavenly that I completely forgot about the soup and I know I had to share it with you. Don`t let the length of the ingredient list turn you off, because this stew is incredibly easy to make.  Especially if you have a pressure cooker like I use here. You just plunge everything in the pot, set your timer, and wait. 

Look at these. Marvelous. Not a very healthy day, but keep your fruits and veggies near you for detoxing later.

Parboil the oxtail for 15 mins to remove excess fat and some other impurities.
You can check out some tips on fat removal in the link I gave you above, but I have modified a parboiling tips from Hyosun of Eating and Living with her gorgeous Galbijjim. Thank you, Hyosun!

In my modified technique, after 15 mins parboiling it, I drained all the water, and rinsed with hot water. No, I didn`t worry about losing the "stock" because I believe the parboiled oxtail would still give a very good flavor to the dish. And it did.
After the oxtail is rinsed, set aside and get your pressure cooker. I really really hope you have one in your kitchen.

Heat a bit of oil in the pressure cooker and saute spices listed in the recipe at the end of this post.

Throw in the oxtail and lightly stir to coat with spices.

Pour in sauce made of soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt dissolved in water. I suggest you go easy with the salt at this stage, because you can still adjust the saltiness later. In fact, I usually omit the salt here and add it only when the cooking is done and I`m happy with stew consistency.

When I cook with my pressure cooker, I usually add water at least enough to cover the meat (or whatever I cook) because I think too little water won`t create enough steam and thus producing not enough pressure to tenderize the ingredients in a short time. 

It probably depends on your cooker`s type, but here`s how mine usually works. Set the lid on, lock it, crank the heat up, wait until the safety pin popped up, and turn down the heat to low to cook. And for the sake of your safety, please consult with your manual. For cooking time, I cooked this one for 40 mins and because the meat hadn`t tenderized enough for me, I recooked it for another 20 mins. 
After the meat has tenderized, adjust the consistency of the soup by thinning it out with water or thicken it up by reducing the water on high heat with occasional stirring for another 5-10 mins with the lid open. When the consistency is right, adjust the taste with salt or sugar.

Now that you`ve seen that 80% of the cooking process is actually the waiting without even opening the lid, don`t you think this dish is easy? You just need to be patient. Although I`m not sure the patience will stay there when the stew is done and served right in front of you with steaming hot rice, because I promise you will finish it in much shorter time than the cooking.
Serves 2-3 persons

500 g oxtail

# Ingredient A:
1/2 cut onion
8 cloves garlic
4 dried chili
1 tbs grated ginger
3 star anise
Fennel seeds
Black pepper
White pepper
# Ingredient B:
1/2 cut lemon (juiced)
2-3 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs soy sauce
2 cups water

1. Parboil oxtail in boiling water for 15 mins, drain, rinse with hot water. This will help remove the excess fat and impurities. Set aside.
2. Heat a bit of oil in a pressure cooker and saute Ingredient A until fragrant.
3. Dump in the parboiled oxtail and pour in Ingredient B. Add more water if necessary and make sure the oxtails are immersed in water.
4. Lock the lid and cook it for 40 mins, wait until it`s safe to open the lid (please consult with your cooker`s manual), and check if the meat is tender enough.If it`s not, cook it for another 20 mins or more.
5. Adjust the taste with salt and sugar and the consistency by adding more water to thin it out or cooking it longer with the lid open to thicken it up.
6. Serve with hot steamed rice.


  1. I have oxtail on my list to make! I only used my pressure cooker for making beans. I am so happy for direction for making this stew. I want to pull out my pressure cooker again! Lovely photos! Thanks for the nudge, this is now at the top of my list!!

  2. Thank you, Lyndsey! Have fun with the spice mixing experiment and I hope your oxtail dish will turn out great! Enjoy your weekend!

  3. I have never cooked oxtail, but I have been tempted for years. I love second-category meat cuts, since mots of them turn out delightful.
    I also love seeing my guests' faces when they learn what part of the animal they said they love and have on their second serving ;-)
    This stew sounds delicious. The mixture of spices sounds... Indian, but the dish doesn't look Indian!
    I love your serving presentation. It's a perfect photo.

  4. I have never tried oxtail soup but it looks very appetizing!

  5. Sissi: Hi Sissi, sorry for my late respond! Oxtail is actually what I often choose when I can splurge on meat. Judging from the amount of the meat and the bones, we consider it expensive, but I guess the price comes with the extra good flavor in the soup/stew.
    If you love bony beef and can handle the long cooking time (aka.being patient :p), you must try it out.

    Loveforfood: Hi there, enjoy making the soup!

    Katerina: Hi Katerina, you should try the oxtail! :)

  6. Arudhi - This oxtail stew is loaded with flavors. It sounds and looks delicious! Ox tail is an expensive cut of meat in Korea and U.S., but my family loves it. I usually make soup by simmering for hours or braise galbijjim (short ribs). Thanks for the link to my post! It was a nice surprise.

  7. Hi Arudhi, thank you for the answer. Here oxtail costs almost nothing (I'm sure I might get it for free if my butcher was in good mood, like bones...), so I could experiment with it without risking a lot of money.
    I must say I have very little experience with cooking beef. I'm rather a pork fan :-)

  8. Hyosun: Thanks for sharing your tips on the parboiling method! So far I can`t find the beef ribs here, but I`ll definitely give it a try once I can get them.

    Sissi: Now I see that we live in a totally different part of world :DD You can try the recipe using pork ribs too if you want. Should taste great!