Year of the oxtail

Posted by Anita on 01.28.09 9:16 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*We usually consume our oxtails in an Italian-style ragu. But with Chinese New Year upon us — and the Year of the Ox, at that — it seemed like an Asian preparation would be more appropriate.

In the world of Chinese oxtail recipes, the options generally boil down to either a hearty braise with root vegetables, or a simple long-simmered soup. In the latter, the meat is simmered for hours until it’s meltingly tender, then served in two parts, much like a French pot-au-feu: a platter of meat with a piquant dipping sauce, and a bowl of clear broth to fill the belly and provide a respite from the spicy, meaty main.

Usually, rice would accompany the meat, but in the spirit of the New Year celebration, we opted to add noodles — which signify long life — to the broth. If you’re not so keen on eating out of two separate bowls, you can pull the meat off the oxtails and stir it in with the noodles and broth, then serve with the sauce on the side for each diner to stir in as she chooses.

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*

Sichuan Oxtail Soup
- adapted from Land of Plenty and Classic Food of China

2-1/2 to 3 pounds of meaty oxtail
2 chicken drumsticks (or any two pieces of dark meat)
3- to 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled
2 tsp whole Szechuan peppercorns
1/2 cup Shaoxing wine (or medium-dry sherry), divided use
6-8 oz dry rice noodles (your choice of width)
salt to taste

- Sauce
1T peanut oil
1/4 cup Sichuan-style chili bean paste
2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

Soak the oxtail pieces in cold water for 30 minutes, then discard the soaking water.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the oxtail and chicken, and return to a boil. Skim off any foam that floats to the top, then reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to keep the oxtails mostly submerged.

Smash the ginger with the back of a knife or other heavy object. Add it to the pan along with the peppercorns and 1/4 cup of the Shaoxing wine. Partially cover the pan, and simmer for at least 3 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Heat the peanut oil in a wok or skillet until very hot but not smoking. Add the chili bean paste, and stir fry until the oil is deep red and the sauce is fragrant. Pour the sauce into a heatproof bowl; when cooled, add the soy sauce and sesame oil.

At the end of the simmering time, the oxtail should be very tender and the meat will pull away from the bone but not completely separate from it. Remove the oxtails to a plate, discarding the simmered-out chicken parts. Pick off any peppercorns that stick to the oxtails and discard. Drain the broth through a fine seive, discarding the peppercorns and ginger, and return the clear dark broth to the pot. You should have about 6-8 cups of soup at this point; add additional cold water if needed, or simmer down the broth. Once you have the proper quantity, add the remaining 1/4 cup Shaoxing wine, then salt the broth to taste. Return the oxtails to the pan and gently reheat until very hot. (If you want to serve the soup in one bowl, pick the meat from the bones before returning it to the broth.)

Meanwhile, prepare the rice noodles according to package directions. (Usually this involves soaking the noodles in boiling water, as opposed to simmering them.) When cooked, divide the noodles among 4 soup bowls, then ladle the hot broth over them. Serve the oxtails in a separate large bowl or tureen, moistened with a bit of the broth, and allow each diner to choose their piece, eating it out of a rice bowl by pulling the meat off the bone and dipping it in the sauce to taste.

holidays & occasions, meat, recipes



Comment by jen maiser

I have got to make this very very soon.

Posted on 01.28.09 at 9:23PM

Comment by Laura

I think the tail is one of the few parts of our steer we didn’t get this year (along with the offal and the tongue). Have to remember to ask for it this year.

Posted on 01.28.09 at 11:10PM

Comment by cookiecrumb

Boy, I couldn’t have wung that without a recipe.

Posted on 01.29.09 at 1:04PM

Comment by Eugenia


Posted on 01.29.09 at 2:56PM

Comment by Kalyn

This is something I’ve never eaten, but it certainly sounds good!

Posted on 01.31.09 at 6:17AM

Comment by Diane

I love oxtail. Usually make mine Chinese/Thai style. But any way on offer, the stuff is gooooooooood.

Posted on 01.31.09 at 4:32PM

Comment by Paula Maack

Oh, yes. Eugenia took the moan right out of my mouth. I echo her sentiment.

Coo. Coo.

This looks and sounds heavenly, Anita. Beautiful job!


~ Paula

Posted on 02.02.09 at 6:37PM

Comment by Christine

Really 2 teaspoons of Szechuan peppercorns? I’m cautious since the last time i used them it felt like my lips had suddenly sprouted a billion super-sensitive feelers- very weird.

Posted on 02.04.09 at 11:59PM

Comment by Anita

yep, really. You don’t eat them; they get strained out of the broth. In fact, I would make it stronger the next time, but I suppose it all depends on how potent your peppercorns are.

Posted on 02.05.09 at 12:01AM

Comment by we are never full

oh wow! i love everything about this soup. i’m always looking for new ways to use oxtail… this one is a keeper.

Posted on 03.02.09 at 6:35AM

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