Chinese Braised Oxtail Stew

December 12, 2007 | Chuck
Chinese Braised Oxtail Stew with Shiitake Mushrooms

Jane and Mark love braised oxtail, as do I. Every very few months, we get a major craving for oxtail, so I made it for Sunday night dinner this past week. The last time I braised oxtails, I used a Ming Tsai recipe, which had too many ingredients. Sometimes I love his East meets West fusion food, but this dish was not one of them.

I wanted a more traditional Chinese recipe and stumbled upon an aromatic Chinese oxtail stew recipe by Jennifer McLagan. The ingredient list was simple, and I really liked how the sauce is refrigerated overnight, which makes removing the fat easier. The orange zest and juice were the only things I didn't like in the recipe. I think this stems from my aversion to orange beef.

Of course, I had to screw around with the recipe and incorporate other ingredients. For ideas, I immediately thought of my favorite Vietnamese noodle soup, bún bò Hue, which uses oxtails and lemongrass. Instead of the orange in McLagan's recipe, I replaced it with lemongrass and a lime. I also increased the amount of star anise, added whole cloves, shiitake mushrooms and Thai chili peppers for some much needed heat!

My additions make the ingredient list seem long, but the dish was easy to prepare because there's hardly any chopping. Once the oxtails were simmering in the oven, the aromas were simply heavenly! The smell reminded me of Vietnamese pho from the star anise and cloves. After three hours of braising, the oxtails were very tender and the meat was falling off the bone. It was hard not to eat them immediately, but the sauce was on the greasy side and the fat needed to be removed, so begrudgingly, I strained the sauce and threw it all in the fridge.

The next day, I skimmed the layer of fat that collected on top of the gelatinous sauce. It's not a pretty process, but it makes the dish healthier. This is my way of rationalizing that it's okay to eat oxtail on regular basis. Once the sauce was re-heated, I poured it over the oxtails and added the shiitake mushrooms.

After an agonizing hour of braising, the oxtails were finally ready and were covered in a thick, dark sauce. We served them over jasmine rice and a side of bok choy. The oxtails were garnished with diced scallions and a squeeze of lime juice. They were fantastic and flavorful from the soy and aromatics. The sour lime juice was a nice addition and cut the richness of the meat and sauce.

The savory sauce was wonderfully soaked up by the plain rice. The shiitakes gave the sauce an earthy taste and a strong mushroom fragrance. We really enjoyed the added flavor and texture of the shiitakes, but they are completely optional. I called my recipe Chinese braised oxtail stew, and while the flavors are predominately Chinese, it's really a melting pot of Asian flavors, which "live together in perfect harmony."

For dessert, we intended to make something light with fruit, but somehow ended up serving root beer floats. What's that quote? "The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry." That pretty much sums up our dessert choice.

After all the rich and heavy meals recently, Hungry Bear and I agreed to cook lighter for a little bit. Let's see how quickly my love for braised hunks of meat foils this pact.

SNDsters: Karen, Garry, Mark, Jane, Hungry Bear, Chuck

Chinese Braised Oxtail with Shiitake Mushrooms

Chinese Braised Oxtail Stew Recipe

Prep and cook time: 5 hours, plus overnight marinating

5 to 6 pounds oxtails, cut into pieces, fat trimmed
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
2 cups low-sodium beef or chicken stock
1/3 cup dark or regular soy sauce
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
2 star anise, broken into pieces
2 whole cloves
4 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and bruised
3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths, plus 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
6 slices fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3-4 Thai chili peppers, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
10 ounces fresh or dried whole shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, re-hydrated if dried
1 lime, zested and cut into small wedges
Cooked jasmine rice, for serving.

1) Heat oven to 300 degrees. Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid. Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, brown oxtail all over, removing each piece when done. Add oil as needed.

2) When done browning, pour off extra fat from bottom of empty pot and set pot over high heat. Add wine and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. In a bowl, mix soy sauce and sugar with 2 cups stock and pour into pot. Add lemongrass, chili peppers, star anise, cloves, 2-inch pieces of scallions, ginger and garlic and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Return oxtails to pot and add lime zest. Cover and transfer to oven. Cook 1½ hours.

3) Turn over pieces of oxtail, cover again and cook 1½ hours more, or until oxtail is very tender. Remove oxtails from pot and strain sauce into a separate saucepan; discard contents of strainer. Transfer oxtail pieces back to ovenproof pot. Cover oxtails and sauce and refrigerate overnight.

4) The next day, heat oven to 300 degrees; remove oxtails and sauce from refrigerator. Lift off any fat on surface of sauce and discard. Gently warm sauce until liquid, then pour over oxtails and stir in shiitake mushrooms. Cover with foil or a lid and bake 30 minutes.

5) Uncover, stir and raise oven temperature to 400 degrees. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes. Stir again and cook another 15 minutes, until hot and glazed thickly with sauce. Remove oxtails from oven and serve over rice. Sprinkle each serving with thin scallion slices and squeeze lime juice over oxtails.

Makes 4 servings

[Adapted from Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore by Jennifer McLagan]

[tags]chinese, vietnamese, oxtail, braised, shiitake, bok choy, mushrooms, lemongrass[/tags]

29 Comments on “Chinese Braised Oxtail Stew”

  1. That looks gorgeous. I’ve only had oxtail once, but I loved them, and would love to work with them at home. I’ll definitely keep this recipe in mind!

  2. East Coast Lover of SND said:

    “Hungry Bear and I agreed to cook lighter for a little bit” …well that should not prove to be so difficult of a challenge! Maybe a nice delicate bowl of beef stew over truffled mashed potatoes with a dallop of sour cream on top? Just kidding. Your oxtail looks great though. I’d love to sit down to a helping of this on one of these frigid NYC December afternoons. I think it would go well with a nice glass of cab and a hunk of warm fresh crusty bread. Would you ship me a bowl of this dish please?!?

  3. Sabrina said:

    This recipe is amazing. I was told it was the best dish I have ever made and I cook daily. I’m making it again tomorrow. Yum Yum

  4. Chuck said:

    Sabrina, wow! I’m glad you like the recipe. Are you really going to make it again tomorrow? If so, can I come over? Ha ha! I’m craving oxtails now that you brought it up.

  5. Alexa said:

    This has got to be the best dish I’ve ever made. I left out the orange and it was perfectly balanced. I made a side of stir fried cabbage. I made a glaze of oyster sauce, cornstarch and water and added that to the cabbage at the end. It went very well with the meat and the rice.

  6. Francine said:

    Thank you for the recipe. One of my favorite dish is the Sauteed Oxtail with chile in a Vietnamese restaurant in Eden Center, Falls Church, VA. The dish is similar, but it is not brown, it is white, either they do not use or just use a little bit of soy sauce. They serve it with Vietnamese bread. It is a good thing it is quite expensive, so I cannot order it very often. Anyway, what I know is that they boil the oxtails with ginger, star anise, and sugar until they are tender. Then they freeze the oxtails in portions. When someone orders a dish, they defrost one portion and sautees it fresly. It has lemon grass in it and hot peppers, but the recipe is a trade secret. The dish has a small amount of clear broth that you can let your bread soak it in. Hmm, delicious. As you are Vietnamese, do you know the dish? I have not tried your recipe yet, but it sounds good.
    I also love the dish with baby clams with lemon grass and eaten with a sesame wafer.

  7. Esther said:

    Hi, is it ok if the star anise is left out?

  8. GBG said:

    This is one of the finest recipes I have EVER cooked, and I am no stranger to the kitchen. Although I love oxtails, I may substitute them with beef short ribs next time.

    One useful tip: After removing the solids from the sauce, I used a gravy fat separator to eliminate most of the fat before transferring it back to the pot with the oxtails. After cooling and marinating overnight, I would estimate that this additional step removed at least 95% of the fat.

    Thanks again for this amazing dish!!

  9. ignitehardcore said:

    Pardon my candor, but I wanted to thank you; this dish got me laid.

  10. handovertail said:

    It was really good, but unlike the guy above me I ended up braising my own ox tail that night ; ).

  11. Jean said:

    Thank you for sharing this recipe … made the first steps this morning, defatted in the afternoon and had it for dinner. After defatting i added some cubed potatoes and hard boiled eggs (soy sauce egg style) and it came out delicious, just like how my grandmother makes it : )

  12. I love this recipe! I tried making this dish for the first time last week and enjoyed it tremendously. I will be featuring this dish on my blog and linking it to you site over this next week. Thank you for sharing!



  13. Jaded said:

    I’m done with the first day of making this recipe and so far I’m a little disappointed. I followed the recipe to the “t” and I ended up with only a few tablespoons of sauce which I will be unable to reduce further since it’s already very concentrated.

    I plan on making a new batch of sauce tomorrow to compensate. I also tasted the oxtails for seasoning and they are very salty (and I like salt!). I don’t know where the salt & pepper come into play but I assume you meant to season the oxtails before you sear them off. I would recommend skipping seasoning the oxtails since the sauce/marinade will season them.

    I don’t mean to me a total basher but I just wanted to give peeps a heads up. :)

  14. May said:

    Superb recipe, the oxtails turned out so faboulous! I gonna to make this again tonight cause there are 6 kids coming over tomorrow. I m just glad that I can prepare this one day in advamce. Gonna serve with fragrance rice and Vietnamese rice paper roll. Yum…yum..

  15. Michael said:

    Why do all the recipes you find on the internet have 15 different ingredients? Close your eyes, now put 15 things in your mouth at one time, came you enjoy the flavors of all 15 items at one time? NO! You can’t infact some of the things you won’t even taste. And if you left them out of your mouth you would not be able to taste the difference.

    I call this a Shot Gun recipe, cause it just blasts ingredients against the palette to see what sticks. It is pretentious and wasteful, it might be nice for some rich person that can run to the store with the recipe and buy specific ingredients for this one meal. The rest of us cook with what we have on hand.

  16. bobo said:

    one comment regarding the 10 oz. of dried vs. 10 oz. fresh shitakes? wouldn’t there be a significant difference in the amount & weight of the re-hydrated ones? I’m guessing they might end up weighing maybe twice? as much..and quite a bit more in quantity

  17. LZMD said:

    Hai i dont have a OVEN, how can i still make this gorgeous recipe?

  18. Coral said:

    Made this for my husband a few months ago and he said it was one of the best things he’s ever eaten. One thing I did differently, by accident, instead of adding two dried star anise, I added two fresh sliced anise/fennel bulbs. I didn’t know there was such a thing as dried anise. Possibly a happy accident since it turned out so amazing. Tonight’s my husband’s birthday and I’m making it with the dried star anise, so we’ll see which is better. I’m still going to saute fennel on the side since it was sooo yummy. I’m also adding Kafir lime leaves this time. My husband’s a foodie, and I try my best though I’m not the best cook in the world. This dish turns you from a so-so cook to all-star chef. Try it and tell me I’m wrong. Fantastic recipe. Thank you so much for sharing. Makes me want to open a restaurant just so I could serve this dish and get rich. ;-)
    Oh! And I didn’t cool it overnight. I don’t know how anyone could resist not eating this right away. There’s no way I could ever do it. I’d rather die of cancer or a heart attack or whatever is the consequence of eating this much fat.

  19. juliecakes said:

    oh my goodness, this dish takes forever to make! Sadly, I didn’t have star anise, thai chilis or dry sherry. Improvised with just cloves, a few mystery dried mexican chilis, and gin in place of sherry. Just pulled the pot out for day one’s activities and sampled a tiny piece of tail. DANG! it’s got a kick. I hope tomorrow’s step somehow magically takes the heat out and replaces it with something edible, sigh.

  20. Samthechef said:

    I like this treatment. But its really a two or three day project!I cook them at least five hours though at the slowest simmer I can achieve on stove top. Best to cook day before so fat can be neatly removed. I like to take the big pieces of bone and put back in cooking liquid to add more body and flavor. Serve the little ones on bone with plenty of napkins!

  21. Van Tran said:

    I made oxtail following this recipe (with minor changes) and the flavor was phenomenal! I did not have whole cloves, tiny amt. of fresh ginger nor lime zest. Instead I used fresh galanga & fresh lime leaves. The introduction of these two elements enhanced the aroma of this dish even more. Thank you so much for the recipe, I finally made use of my Le Creuset pots!


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