Thai Muslim Oxtail Soup

Posted By Stephen


Kerri was out having lunch with a friend today and I volunteered to find something for dinner. After all the soup that we have been eating lately, Kerri said that she wanted something quite hearty and not soup-related for dinner today. I set to work looking through the excellent Thai Food by David Thompson, which has loads of little bookmarks sticking out of it to remind us of dishes that we thought sounded good. One of these was the Muslim oxtail soup. Only once I had planned everything for it did I realise that oops, it was soup again. Regardless, I was sure that it would be hearty and would try to make it thicker, into more of a stew than a soup.

I bought an oxtail at Sainsbury’s; they sold all the pieces of one whole tail tied up together with string, which I thought was an interesting way of doing it. And there was one that was just a little larger than the amount that we needed, which was convenient. As it needs four hours to cook and quite a lot of preparation beforehand, I set about the task well ahead of time.

This recipe is from the south of Thailand, where many dishes are heavy influenced by the proximity to Malaysia. After the recent discussion on how common turmeric was in Thai food, I can confirm that this one definitely includes it because I managed to turn a lot of the kitchen yellow with it. The dish is made using a curry powder rather than the pounded paste that is used in so many Thai dishes. I made half of this recipe and it served three of us quite well, with a little left over. The quantity of curry powder seemed to be double what the recipe actually needed.

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon cloves
1 tablespoon fennel seeds (I thought we had these but we didn’t, so I used a small piece of star anise instead)
20 Thai cardamom pods (I just used green cardamom)
15 long pepper – optional (I didn’t use these)
3 tablespoons chilli powder
2.5 tablespoons ground ginger (or 5 if you are using your own home-dried ginger)
3.5 tablespoons ground turmeric (or 7 if you are using your own home-dried turmeric)

Briefly dry fry the whole spices, then grind and combine with the powders. Sieve the mixture to get rid of any husks or bits that weren’t ground small enough. This powder was lovely and aromatic, and as I said above, we only used half of it, so we have kept the left over powder and will try to find another use for it.

3 kg oxtail, cut into pieces
5 white or brown onions, chopped
5 cups ginger water (details on this below)
pinch of salt
a few chillies (bird’s eye if you can get them), to taste
pinch of ground white pepper
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
3 tablespoons deep-fried shallots
lime wedges (I completely forgot about these actually… just realised now!)

Start by blanching the oxtail twice from a cold water start, rinsing it in between and replacing the water. This cleans the meat and reduces the cooking time, which is good because it is still rather long. While you are doing this, make the ginger water too. Chop up and bruise some ginger, then add it to some water with a little sugar and bring to the boil, then simmer for several minutes. These two steps and making the curry powder do lead to quite a long prep time for this recipe.

When that is all done, add the onions and the blanched and rinsed oxtail to a large pot. Add 4 heaped tablespoons of the curry powder, the ginger water and salt. Add some more water to cover the oxtail, bring to the boil and simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Skim occasionally, and I found that I had to top up the water every now and then to ensure that the oxtail remained covered.

This bit is optional, but it is what made this richer and heartier: Remove the cooked oxtail from the liquid and let it cool, then pick the meat off the bones. The recipe said that the onions should have been completely dissolved by this point, but they weren’t so I sieved the stock and then pushed the onions through the sieve, then mixed it all back up together with the picked-off oxtail meat.

Season with the chillies, pepper, coriander and deep-fried shallots, and serve with lime wedges on the side. Of course, we didn’t have the lime wedges because I forgot. I imagine that a squeeze of lime juice would have balanced out the rich flavour well. It was indeed rich and hearty and was more like a stew than a soup. And Kerri really enjoyed it, which was the main thing!


It seems a little boring in comparison, but we had a simple cucumber salad to start, which was simply dressed with coriander leaves, fried dried chilli, Schezuan peppercorns, salt, sugar and rice vinegar. Having had the pomelo salad recently, we decided always to try to have some sort of simple, refreshing salad when we have time to prepare it.

With the “soup” we drank a New Zealand Gewurtztramminer which was off-dry and lovely and fruity and aromatic and went with it very well.

Oct 8th, 2009

5 Comments to 'Thai Muslim Oxtail Soup'

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  1. Helen said,

    Cor wow, this looks a bit good! Kerri was just commenting on my oxtail about your oxtail and here it is. Those are some quantities you have going on there – will you be eating it for the next week?!
    .-= Helen´s last blog ..Jamaican Oxtail Stew with Guinness =-.

  2. Stephen said,

    Thanks Helen! We cooked half of that actually – 1.5kg of oxtail still sounds like a lot, but there is a lot of bone in that weight of course and there were three of us.

  3. Jonathan said,

    Wow. Great stuff. I’m so glad it’s getting colder. It means I can start cooking ox tail again. What a treat.
    .-= Jonathan´s last blog ..Char Grilled Red Bream =-.

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