Eid Mubarak! (and Indonesian Oxtail Soup recipe)

Hi all! Eid Mubarak! May all of us are having blessed Eid except some of you who refuse to wear masks and keep violating the self-quarantine rules.

Anyway, we talked about opor ayam yesterday. For lunch, I had ketupat with oxtail soup. Oxtail itself is not a stranger for many culinary delicacies. Italian knows coda alla vaccinara — a really warm, fulfilling, and yummy oxtail with tomato and parsley-based braise. In Malaysia, the popular term is “sup ekor” (“ekor” means tail) — and you can guarantee many Malaysians will giggle or snort when they hear its Indonesian’s name: sup buntut (as “buntut” means tail in English, but it means butt in Malaysia) 😄 Either way, oxtail is one of its kind because it has fat which turned into delicious broth. This is a soup that usually folks had once in a while (unlike its healthier and lighter option: veggie soup — a staple in most Indonesian households) and it needs certain skill to get rid of the smell and to ensure the meat in the oxtail is soft enough to chew. Oxtail takes time to cook because of the fat on it. Prior cooking (or right after you buy the oxtail and you can ask the butcher to do it for you,) clean the oxtail off from fat. Some fat might stuck on the bone, and that’s okay — but if you see excess fat on it, clean it off to ensure you will have a clean-taste soup.

Many recipes call for a prolonged time of boiling the oxtail before adding it with spices; in some recipes, it’s even suggested to boil the oxtail with bay leaves and ginger for 2-3 hours to get rid the smell and soften the meat. If you have time to do so, that’s good! If not, you can use pressure cooker — like what I usually do.

Indonesian Oxtail Soup

Using pressure cooker to cut down the cooking time

In many asian culinaries, rice plays a really important part in our daily meal. Things like soup, meat, veggies, are considered as side dishes — and the main star of the show is the rice. This is the very reason why you see spicy dishes in Indonesia such as rendang, gulai (curry), sambal balado, and others; and no, you don’t eat sambal balado by itself and locals will look at you weirdly. You need a plate of rice to alleviate the spiciness and add a bit of sayur lodeh (veggie curry with coconut milk). The same goes with Indonesian oxtail soup. You can eat it by itself, but should you? No. Eat it with a plate of ketupat or jasmine rice because we all glutton at heart.

Indonesian Oxtail Soup (Sup Buntut)

For 5-6 people, or you have terrible self-control after Ramadan fasting and you decided to gulp down the whole stuff.

1 kilogram beef oxtail
300 – 400 gram top chuck or chuck roast (optional. I usually add a bit of meat to the soup so the kids can enjoy it too)

Additionals (diced):
3 carrots (medium to big)
3 potatoes (medium to big)
1 cauliflower

Spices, blend:
8 garlics
10 shallots
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder (if you are using fresh nutmeg (not powdered), use half of the nutmeg)
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds

Spices, smashed:
2 cm ginger
1 star anise
5 cloves
5 cardamom
1 (roughly 2 cm) cinnamon bark (if you don’t have the fresh cinnamon, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder)

5 tablespoons cooking oil
2-3 liter water

To taste:
Salt
Sugar
Pepper
Fried shallots (garnish)

Clean the oxtail, ensure excess fat are getting rid of. If you bought the oxtail from supermarket, you can omit this part (since oxtails sold in supermarket/modern market are imported and it has been cleaned properly. When in doubt, though, you can ask the butcher to clean it again.)

Prepare the pressure cooker; do not do anything with the pressure-thingy yet. Treat it like regular pan first. Put it on top of the stove, pour the cooking oil, and heat it up. Once the oil is hot enough, put the blended spices into it. Stir a bit, then put the additional spices (the smashed ones.) This is a tip in cooking asian-style food: Heat the spices first. That way, it will bring out the aroma.

Put the meat and the oxtail and mix it with the spices. You don’t have to cook it thoroughly, just to cover/marinate the meat. Once you can smell the nice aroma from the spices, pour the water until all the meat is submerged. This is important because we are using pressure cooker. The water in the pressure cooker gets reduced rapidly, so we need to make sure the water is still there to avoid the meat getting burned and have a nice beef stock.

Close the pressure cooker and cook it for 45-60 minutes in medium or high heat (40 minutes actually enough, but I usually go to 50-60 minutes to ensure the meat is soft and can be pulled off the bone easily. Dice the carrots, potatoes, and cauliflower while waiting. You can also add 2 stalks of green onions (chopped) if you’d like.

Once done, wait until the pressure cooker cooled down. You can open the steam valve to let the steam out faster — be careful, it’s super hot — but never ever opening the lid using force. After all the steam and the pressure inside the pan is out, you should able to open it easily.

Put the veggies with the soup, add a bit of water if you see the water reduced a lot. Put salt, sugar, and pepper to taste. Close the lid again, and let the pressure cooker cooks for 30 minutes with low or medium heat. This will tender the meat even more and cook the veggies.

Once done, open the lid, pour a hearty bowl of oxtail soup, and enjoy it with warm jasmine rice and fried shallots as garnish.

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