This soy-braised oxtail is surprisingly delicious

If you're looking for a special occasion dish that packs a lot of punch when it comes to flavor, this oxtail recipe may be just what you're looking for. Inspired by a Korean short rib dish called "galbi jjim", food photographer and recipe developer Cecilia Ryu decided to use oxtail to take this braised dish to a whole new level. 

"This dish is something that is usually served on a holiday or special occasion. It isn't something that can be made right away and oxtails are not a cheap cut of meat anymore," Ryu explains. "You don't see many dishes made with oxtail mainly because it takes time to cook down the meat to achieve that silky, meaty texture."

Ryu serves this dish with the bones left in. While it's usually served over rice, you could try serving it over polenta or even mashed potatoes.

Gather your ingredients for soy-braised oxtail

In terms of fruits and vegetables, you'll need one Asian pear or two Bosc pears, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, daikon radish, garlic, fresh ginger, and one large onion. For seasoning and garnishes, you'll need soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, black pepper, sesame seeds, scallions, pine nuts, and mirin. Mirin is a type of sweet cooking rice wine that's used as a seasoning and glazing agent. It can be a little hard to find, so if you don't have any mirin on hand, Ryu suggests using some sake or even a little white wine instead. 

Finally, you'll need about five pounds of oxtail. As Ryu says, "Because oxtails are a gelatin-rich meat and have more fat, the meat becomes very soft and tender after braising and slow cooking." According to Ryu, oxtail's naturally high-fat content gives it more depth of flavor than other cuts of meat.

Make sure you have the right equipment to make soy-braised oxtail

The best pot in which to cook this and all other braised dishes is a Dutch oven, a thick-walled cooking pot usually made out of cast iron and often covered in enamel. Dutch ovens are ideal for making braises because of the way they retain and distribute heat. If you don't have a Dutch oven, you can use a stockpot, but preferably a heavy-bottomed one. According to Ryu, the cooking time may need to be adjusted if you're not using a Dutch oven. "It may need more cooking time on low heat and less cooking in medium and high heat if not using a Dutch oven," Ryu says. "They should definitely be more attentive when cooking to assure the heat isn't too high and nothing is burning, as well."

You'll also need a blender or food processor. Beyond these two items, everything else required by this recipe, like knives and a cutting board, is something that any home cook would have on hand.

Trim the oxtails and prepare the marinade

Start by trimming the excess fat off each oxtail as needed. Put the trimmed oxtail in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let the oxtail sit at room temperature for thirty minutes to remove excess blood.

While the oxtail is soaking, prepare your marinade. Peel the pear and onion and cut both into large pieces. Place them separately into a food processor or a blender and blend on high. You'll only need about one cup each of the grated pear and grated onion for this recipe, so Ryu recommends freezing whatever is leftover for future use. Combine the soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, mirin, garlic, ginger, and black pepper into a bowl. Add the grated pear and onion, mix everything together, and set aside.

After 30 minutes are up, drain the water that the oxtails have been soaking in, rinse the oxtails with cold water, and pat them dry with a paper towel.

Start cooking your soy-braised oxtails

Over medium-high heat, add canola oil to your Dutch oven. Once the oil is nice and hot, sear each oxtail until it's golden brown on each side. You'll need to work in batches and be careful to not overcrowd the pot. Once all the oxtail has been seared, place the meat off to the side. Add the marinade to the pot and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Return the oxtail to the pot and spoon the marinade over the meat. Once the marinade comes to a boil, cover the pot with a lid and simmer on low heat for about 1 and 1/2 hours.

You'll know that cooking is complete when the meat is slightly separating from the bone and very tender. If you think that the oxtail is not quite done cooking, give it another 30 minutes, checking on it intermittently.

Don't forget your veggies for soy-braised oxtail

While the oxtail is simmering, prepare your vegetables. Cut the daikon radish and carrots into large pieces, and the shiitake mushrooms into halves or quarters. Once the oxtail has been simmering for about an hour and a half, add the vegetables to the pot, making sure to stir and coat them thoroughly in the marinade. The vegetables and oxtail will simmer together for at least an additional hour and a half, so check in two or three times to give everything a good stir and to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. 

Once cooking is complete, transfer the oxtail and vegetables to a large bowl or platter. Skim off any excess fat from the marinade as needed, then pour the marinade over the vegetables and meat. Garnish with pine nuts, scallions, and sesame seeds.

This soy-braised oxtail is surprisingly delicious
4.5 from 4 ratings
If you want a special occasion dish that packs a lot of punch when it comes to flavor, this soy-braised oxtail recipe may be just what you're looking for.
Prep Time
45
minutes
Cook Time
3
hours
Servings
5
servings
Photo of two plates of soy-braised oxtail
Ready in 3.75 hours
Ingredients
  • 5 lbs. oxtail
  • 1 Asian pear or 2 Bosc pears
  • 1 large onion
  • 4-5 shiitake mushrooms, washed and stems removed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 1 daikon radish, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ cup and 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon pine nuts
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Directions
  1. Trim off excess fat from each oxtail if needed. Put the trimmed oxtail in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to remove excess blood.
  2. Peel the onion and pear and cut into large pieces. Place separately into a food processor or blender and blend on high. Measure out 1 cup each of the grated pear and onion. Save and freeze any remaining pear or onion for future use.
  3. Combine the soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, sesame oil, mirin, garlic, ginger, and black pepper in a large bowl. Add the grated pear and onion and mix well. Set aside.
  4. After 30 minutes, drain the water and rinse the oxtails in cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  5. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add canola oil. Once the oil is heated, sear each oxtail until golden brown on each side. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Set the browned meat off to the side.
  6. Once all the meat is browned and set off to the side, pour the marinade into the pan. With a wooden spoon, scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the oxtail and spoon the marinade over the meat.
  7. Once the marinade comes to a rapid boil, cover and turn the heat down to a low simmer. Simmer on low for approximately 1 ½ hours. Stir two or three times during this period to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan and the meat is evenly coated in the marinade.
  8. While the meat is simmering, prepare the vegetables. Cut the daikon radish and carrot into large pieces. Cut the shiitake mushrooms in halves or quarters. Set aside.
  9. After the oxtails have simmered for 1 ½ hours, add the vegetables and stir to coat in the marinade. Increase the heat to medium and continue simmering for another hour. Stir two or three times in between to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan and the meat is evenly covered in the marinade. Be careful when stirring the vegetables as they can easily fall apart when fully cooked.
  10. Once cooking is complete, the meat should be slightly separating from the bone and very tender. If you feel the meat needs more time, continue cooking for another 30 minutes, checking every few minutes.
  11. Remove the oxtail and vegetables to a large bowl or platter. Skim off any excess fat from the marinade if needed. Spoon the marinade over the oxtails and vegetables.
  12. Garnish with scallions, pine nuts, and sesame seeds.
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