Monday, October 24, 2011

Buntot ng Baka sa Oyster Sauce (Oxtail in Oyster Sauce and Lemon Grass)

Oxtail is quite exotic a cut of beef and therefore less appealing (if at all, it is even considered an edible cut of meat) to most, especially mothers, ladies and young children. It composes lots of tailbones called caudal vertebrae, strong ligaments (that allow the joints to move), cartilage (that cushions the bones) and some rather tough flash that’s full of veins and tendons. In some Asian countries like the Philippines, the regular cut even includes, hold your breath ……… the tough rind or skin covering …… but which becomes gelatinous (due to collagen releases) after long hours of patiently slow cooking the meat. :-)

With such a composition, the uninitiated can only imagine how the meat would taste in, say, a rich stew or hearty soup. But before you even judge oxtail, try this dish first. Who knows, it might open a new perspective on how you and other people look at oxtail as an alternative food item? As for me, I have been enjoying its unique robust flavor for a very long time.

Whilst oxtails, in the olden days, really come from oxen or steers, today they are simply the tails of cows and other bovines (like the Philippine “carabao” or water buffalo) of both genders. Surprisingly, oxtail makes for a very flavorful stew or rich soupy dishes with its tasty meat and naturally intense beef flavor due to its bones and marrow. That is provided you are willing to undergo the long hours (based on my own experience, about 2 – 3 hours sometimes more) of slow cooking, either by braising or controlled boiling or simmering.

If you have not tried this fabulous meat yet, this should be the right time. Many adventurous chefs have been trying their kitchen prowess at this meat quite often now. The attempts are so variable and excitingly beyond the usual stew and soup preparations. Let’s be part of the ongoing trend of rediscovering the humble meat that has been with us for ages …… since the time we have started eating beef. :-)

The culinary term oxtail is also spelled ox tail or ox-tail in some instances. In the Philippine language, it is called “buntot ng baka”. As I said above, while ordinary oxtails in other countries are commonly skinned, the Philippine cut is particularly sold with the skin on making the resulting dish even richer and more flavorful albeit more oily. But I usually skim off the oil floating on the surface of the soup or sauce for healthier option and so as not to mask the bold flavor of the dish.

I am in Sri Lanka and the available oxtail is, unlike in the Philippines, skinless. For a group of 3 hungry males, we purchased 2 medium pieces of oxtails, about 1.5 kilograms or 3 lbs, cut up to serving sizes. As usual, the meat is properly washed and rinsed several times. :-)

To complement the meat above, we need the following basic ingredients: 2 pcs small shallots with its green leaves, 3 pcs lemon grass or “salay” (white portion only), 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 tbsp fermented black beans or “tausi”, 1 tbsp rice vinegar, ½ tsp ground black pepper, salt to taste and enough broth or water for simmering.
In a heavy bottomed casserole or pot, arrange the cut-up oxtails and fill it with enough water to fully cover the meat. On high heat let the water boil for some time. Expect somewhat dark bubbles, rendered fat and impurities to appear on the surface as the oxtail is heated through. We don’t want this in our dish, so empty all the liquid out and lightly wash the meat again over running water to remove all traces of curdled blood.

Once again, cover the meat with enough water (or broth if you have) and resume cooking on high heat. Let the broth boils then adjust the heat on low. Add in soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, salted/fermented black beans, lemon grass, black pepper and shallots. Continue with the long process of slow cooking.

Continue simmering until the broth is reduced and meat is fork tender. Avoid drying the liquid up by adding 1 cup broth or hot water as necessary during the simmering process. Taste the slowly thickening sauce and add salt as needed. Simmer further until the meat is very tender and basically falling off the bone. The sauce should be rich, thick and a bit gelatinous.

Transfer into serving plates/bowl along with lots of plain steamed rice. You will be surprised by how tasty this oxtail dish could be. :-)

With its thick flavorful sauce, the dish goes very well with some buttered or steamed veggies, like the simple one we prepared here.

Try this and you’ll probably start considering oxtail among your regular cut of beef. It surely takes long to prepare but the wait is really worth it. :)

While the dish is already very good right from the heat, it is surprisingly better if reheated and eaten the following day. Enjoy! c“,)


  1. I like the almost caramelized look of the ox tail it looks very appetizing. Beer please.. :)

  2. yes ray that's when it is best .... and indeed it goes very well with beer .... :-)

  3. That looks heavenly. I love oxtail.

  4. looks yummy and indeed good to serve with a red or white wine :)

  5. thanks kristofermark, any wine would be perfect i believe, but i would prefer red .... :-)



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