O for Oxtail 

There are well known versions of oxtail soup… British Jamaican, Indonesian, Korean, Filipino, Thai… all using flavors specific to each region.

Oxtail is one of those ingredients that is popular in all meat-loving cuisines around the world. 

Though a bony piece of meat it is very flavorful and most suited for soups and stews, or braised in a liquid like red wine. A dish made of oxtails contains plenty of marrow, which, according to traditional Chinese medicine, is good for health, contributing to its eater’s longevity. Also it provides plenty of collagen, good for skin nourishment.

Oxtails usually takes hours to cook on the stove top, but a pressure cooker, electrical or stove top can cut down the cooking time considerably. As they are very boney with little meat, oxtails are ideal for making flavorful stock.

Funnily enough, it had humble origins as a poor people’s food in most cuisines as they were seen as ‘throwaway cuts’. In recent times, as concepts like ‘nose-to-tail eating’ gained in popularity, it increased the popularity of cuts of meat like oxtails. And their price tags as well.

There are well known versions of oxtail soup… British Jamaican, Indonesian, Korean, Filipino, Thai… all using flavors specific to each region.

In Britain oxtail soup is considered a quintessential British comfort food, with humble beginnings, thought to have originated in London’s east end in the seventeenth century. The British version combines beef tails and vegetables in the soup.

Jamaica makes an oxtail soup that is brown and steaming, light with ginger and thyme, pungent with allspice and soy, a true taste of the Caribbean.

Indonesian oxtail soup (sop buntut) is another well-loved version. It features diced oxtail in a clear rich beef broth, with chopped carrots, celery and potato, and flavored with ginger, coriander, lime and chilies.

Kkori-gomtang, the Korean oxtail soup is made with garlic, salt, black pepper, green onions and other typical Korean flavors. The soup is simmered at low heat for several hours to soften the meat and make the broth bloom.

And then there is the Kare Kare, the well known Filipino soup, starring oxtail with peanut butter and fish sauce, and colored with achiote seeds.

We are going for a Thai version of the oxtail soup today, flavored with tomatoes, start anise, coriander, cumin and cinnamon, a perfect winter-warmer.

Oxtail Soup


  • 2 pounds oxtail
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 6-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 6 star anise
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground (or use ground coriander)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or use ground cumin)
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 or 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh red Thai chili or dried red chilies, crushed
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


  • If using whole coriander and cumin seeds, dry roast them in a pan, till fragrant and they begin to change color. (Better to roast coriander seeds for a minute before adding the cumin to ensure they are uniformly roasted.) When cool grind them using a spice grinder.
  • Place the oxtail pieces in a pot with water to cover and add tomatoes, cinnamon, star anise, soy sauce, along with coriander and cumin powders. 
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, then adjust the heat to simmer. Cook until tender, for about 2 hours, checking every 30 minutes to make sure there is sufficient water to cover the oxtail pieces, adding more if required.
  • Slice the shallots thinly lengthwise and fry them crisp in the vegetable oil. Drain on paper towels.
  • When meat is done, add chili and lime juice. Adjust seasoning. 
  • Spoon into individual bowls, and garnish with the fried onions and cilantro and serve hot.

Note: You can make the soup till the stage where the meat is fully cooked and refrigerate it for a few hours and remove any excess fat, if so desired. 

2 thoughts on “O for Oxtail ”

  1. I only remember having oxtails once, when my cousin got her first apartment and invited me for dinner. I guess they weren’t memorable as all I remember is that she served them with rice.

    I wonder if they sell oxtails at my market.

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