Chinese Oxtail Stew
I don’t know who first decided to eat oxtails, but that person was a genius. Tails may at first seem to be unappetizing, but they are packed with muscle (meat and flavour!) and lots of cartilage. Cooking them slowly makes the meat tender and the cartilage becomes soft, gelatinous goodness.
Braised oxtail dishes are found in many cuisines, ranging from Jamaican to Italian, but I’ve always found the Chinese version to be my favourite. There’s just something about all of the different flavours and the fragrant aromas. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to look very far to find a recipe. My uncle has his own recipe, which is conveniently found in our family cookbook (do you have one of those?). This one doesn’t have as many ingredients as other recipes you may find have, but the flavour is still really good. Only a few minutes after you start braising, the kitchen becomes filled with wonderful aromas. But you must resist! It takes time (at least 3 hours in fact) for the tail meat to tenderize and for the sauce to fully develop its flavour. Once it’s done, the meat is fall-off-the-bone delicious and you’ll be gnawing at the bones to get every last bit of meat and cartilage. I also decided to add daikon radish (lo bak in Cantonese) because it’s one of my favourite Asian vegetables and it soaks up flavours really well. I served the stew over rice, which soaked up the sauce very nicely. There was a lot of meat on these tail pieces and I was stuffed and satisfied after this meal. This is definitely a go-to Chinese recipe now and you should try it out too!
Here’s what you’re gonna need:
Chinese Oxtail Stew (adapted from my uncle’s recipe):
- 2 kg oxtail, cut into 2-inch pieces
- ~1/3 cup flour
- salt and pepper
- vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions, sliced julienne
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced lightly
- 6 pieces of sliced ginger
- 5 star anise
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 oz. dark soy sauce
- 2 oz. light soy sauce
- 1 daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
Usually I take photos of the cooking process, but today I was pressed for time and had to hurry in order to get everything in the oven so it would be ready for dinnertime. Sorry! I hope you enjoy the photos of the final dish, though!
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Coat oxtail evenly with flour, salt and pepper.
3. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to barely coat the bottom of the pan.
4. Place the oxtail in the pan and brown on all sides (cook about 3-4 minutes on each side). Add more oil if necessary. Don’t crowd the pan, otherwise the oxtail won’t brown evenly. You may need to do 2 batches if you have a smaller pan. Transfer the oxtail pieces to a large casserole dish or roasting pan.
5. Add the onion to the pan and sauté for a few minutes, until lightly browned. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few more minutes.
6. Add the star anise, bay leaves, both soy sauces and beef broth to the pan. Allow the liquid to come to a boil and pour over the oxtail. If necessary, add water to just barely cover the top of the oxtail pieces.
7. Cover with a lid or tin foil and place in the oven on the middle rack. Allow to braise for at least 3 hours.
8. After 1 hour, add the daikon to the cooking dish. Check the oxtail every half hour or so and add more water if the liquid has evaporated enough such that it is below the level of the oxtail pieces. Uncover the stew for the last half hour to allow the liquid to thicken. If it is too watery, you may pour the liquid into a pot and heat over the stove until it reaches the desired thickness.
9. Remove the stew from the oven and skim off as much fat as possible. Serve over steamed rice. Garnish with sliced green onion. Enjoy!