Mister Jiu’s Oxtail Soup

Oxtail Soup

This comforting, hearty soup from Mister Jiu's cookbook is full of meaty oxtails, roasted veggies, star anise, ginger, and two kinds of peppercorns.

Serves6

Prep1 hour

Cook6 hours

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Credit: Pete Lee

Oxtail, a favorite of resourceful immigrants everywhere, is now among the priciest specialty cuts at the butcher’s counter. Even back when it was cheap, my busy mom knew to treat it right. She blanched it in boiling water, then braised it for hours in our slow cooker. When I started cooking professionally, I tried new techniques on oxtail, but the results were never as succulent or as satisfying as hers. I came to my senses and, aside from salting before blanching, I basically do it her way, coaxing out flavor with patience rather than a hard sear. This recipe is a variation on what we do at the restaurant, where we take the meat off the bone, fold in bone marrow, and roll it into a mustard-leaf torchon. But deep down where it matters, both restaurant and home versions keep my mom’s dish in mind.

Tester’s Note

This was one of my favorite recipes to test from the Mister Jiu’s cookbook because it reminded me of my grandmother’s oxtail soup, so deeply savory and rich from the oxtails. I love the twist here where the carrots, mushrooms, and daikon radish are roasted before they go into the soup, adding another layer of flavor, but it’s a pretty hands-off recipe that otherwise just requires a few hours of simmering.

You’ll need a pretty big stockpot for making this soup, or you can just scale down and do half the recipe. I personally like the big batch because the soup is a great light lunch or can be dinner by adding in some cooked noodles. If you don’t have time to make the chicken stock, use a store-bought one that’s light on the vegetables and more chicken-forward. – Christine, Food Editor-at-Large

Oxtail Soup

This comforting, hearty soup from Mister Jiu's cookbook is full of meaty oxtails, roasted veggies, star anise, ginger, and two kinds of peppercorns.

Prep time 1 hour

Cook time 6 hours

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

Oxtail Soup:

  • 5 pounds

    oxtails, cut into 2-inch-thick pieces

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    black peppercorns

  • 2 teaspoons

    white peppercorns

  • 2

    star anise pods

  • 3

    bay leaves

  • 2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices

    unpeeled ginger

  • 5 quarts

    cold chicken stock (store-bought or recipe below)

  • 8 ounces

    daikon or other radish, peeled and then roll cut

  • 8 ounces

    carrots, peeled and then roll cut

  • 4 ounces

    fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, halved if very large

  • 1 tablespoon

    neutral oil

  • Fresh watercress or Chinese or regular celery leaves dressed in peanut or nut oil for garnish

Chicken Stock:

  • 5 pounds

    chicken backbones

  • 1

    medium yellow onion, chopped

  • 1

    medium stalk celery, chopped

  • 1

    medium carrot, chopped

  • 8

    thyme sprigs

  • 2

    winter or summer savory sprigs

  • 5 quarts

    cold water

Instructions

Oxtail Soup:

  1. Season the oxtails all over with 1 tablespoon salt and let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

  2. In a small frying pan over medium heat, combine all the peppercorns and the star anise and toast, tossing or stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to a plate and let cool. Make a sachet of the spices and bay leaves by wrapping in a double layer of cheesecloth and tying closed with kitchen twine. Add the ginger to the same pan over medium-high heat and char until blackened in spots, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

  3. Fill a 10-quart or larger pot halfway with heavily salted water (it should remind you of seawater) and bring to a vigorous boil over high heat. Add the oxtails and blanch for 1 minute, then transfer them to a colander and rinse under cold water. Discard the blanching water and rinse out the pot.

  4. Return the oxtails to the pot. Add the sachet, ginger, and chicken stock and bring to a simmer over high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and very gently simmer, uncovered and skimming every hour or as needed, until the oxtails are tender but not falling off the bone, about 4 hours. About an hour before the oxtails are done, taste the broth and season with salt.

  5. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place the daikon, carrots, and mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the neutral oil, and toss to combine. Roast until they start to brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

  6. Transfer the oxtails to a large bowl. Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and fit over a 5-quart pot. Strain the broth and discard the solids.

  7. If serving the same day, skim the fat from the surface of the broth. If serving the next day, return the oxtails to the broth. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate. When ready to finish the soup, skim the hardened fat from the surface of the broth. Warm over medium heat until the broth liquefies, then transfer the oxtails to a large bowl.

  8. Bring the broth back to a simmer. Add the roasted vegetables and continue to simmer, uncovered, until just knife-tender, about 15 minutes. Return the oxtails to the broth and simmer until they are warmed through, about 5 minutes more. Taste the broth and season with salt.

  9. Serve the soup hot, garnished with the dressed watercress.

Chicken Stock:

  1. Fill a 12-quart or larger pot halfway with tap water and bring to a vigorous boil over high heat. Add the chicken bones and blanch for 10 to 15 seconds, then transfer to a colander set in the sink. Discard the cooking water and wash out the pot.

  2. Add the chicken bones, onion, celery, carrot, thyme, savory, and 5 quarts cold water to the pot and bring to a hard simmer over high heat. Skim off as much scum as possible from the surface. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for about 4 hours, skimming every hour or as needed.

  3. Line a fine-mesh strainer or colander with a double layer of cheesecloth (or a coffee filter) and fit it over a large bowl. Strain the stock, discard the solids, and let cool.

  4. Transfer the stock to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. When ready to use, warm to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

Recipe Notes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need 6 hours for salting and simmering, plus time to make a double batch of Chicken Stock. If you can, leave the oxtails in the broth and chill overnight for maximum tenderness and flavor.

Reprinted with permission from Mister Jiu's in Chinatown: Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food by Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, copyright © 2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Pete Lee © 2021