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Oxtail soup that will melt your heart with an adventurous twist

Have you ever thinking of trying a more exotic version of oxtail soup?  I am referring to the Malaysian oxtail soup.

Imagine adding cumin, coriander, cinnamon stick, and cardamom to the soup, no more bay leaf, thyme, and parsley!

If you wish to put your spin on the traditional oxtail soup recipe that you have, try this unorthodox way of preparing the soup. (Albeit it is a prevalent cooking method in Indonesia and Malaysia 🙂 )

Malaysian oxtail soup

Oxtail soup can elevate to become an exotic wonder dish with an adventurous twist of Asian flavor.

This Malaysian oxtail soup is earthy, meaty, warm and comforting with the bursting flavor from a myriad of local spices. When the soup is served bubbling hot, one mouthful will melt your heart and change the way you appreciate soup forever.

Whenever I of for the traditional Malaysian food, I still like the quintessential all time favorite Malaysian style oxtail soup. It is reminiscent of what I typically enjoyed at the street vendor in my hometown, which I have not tasted it for a long time.

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Oxtail soup is called sup ekor in Malaysia and sup buntut in Indonesia. They refer to the same oxtail soup, and the style of cooking is identical. It is prepared by simmering the oxtail until it becomes tender with a myriad of local herbs and spices. The coriander leaves and deep-fried onion complement perfectly with the gamey flavor of the soup.

This hearty meal was once only available at roadside hawker stores but has become part of the buffet repertoire of many large restaurants and five-star hotels.

Sup buntut or oxtail soup

How to make the authentic Malaysian oxtail soup

Making Malaysian style oxtail soup is quite straightforward. Here is all the detail you need to make an authentic Sup Ekor with an unforgettable taste.

The oxtail:

Sear the oxtail until both sides turn slightly brown with some vegetable oil in a skillet. Browning adds flavor to the oxtail. Some cooks take the shortcut by skipping this step but indeed is no the best option. Once you have done this, place the oxtail in the stock pot with cold water.

You can replace the oxtail with mutton, chicken, or beef for this recipe. Sup Ayam (chicken soup) is prepared in the same way by substituting the oxtail with chicken pieces.

The Aromatics

Onions, ginger, and garlic are the aromatics for this soup. Saute until the onion caramelized, then add to oxtail in the stock pot. Simmer over low heat to extract the flavor of the oxtail.

The herb and spices

The herbs and spices are an integral part of the soup. Each cook has its secret formula of the spice combination. I am using the most common mix of herbs and spices that appeal to most of the local people in this recipe. If this is the first time you prepare this soup, I suggest you adhere to this recipe and make the customization later.

The wholes herbs ( the coriander seeds, cloves, cardamoms, star anise and star anise) is best to toast lightly on a pan, and then place in a piece of cloth and tie it to form a bouquet garni. Leave it in the pot and let simmer to extract the flavor.

Add the ground herbs and spices directly into the pot and simmer.

The vegetables

Let the soup boils for two hours or until the flavor of the oxtail is fully extracted. Add the carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes and simmer for another twenty minutes before serving.

Oxtail soup

8 Tips to prepare oxtail soup (sup ekor)

  • You can prepare the oxtail broth a day before. When it is cooled, keep in a plastic container and keep it in the refrigerator. The fat will coagulate on top. You can scoop or pick it up much like a piece of butter and discard it before reheating it.
  • Simmer the oxtail over low heat until it is tender. The meat will fall off from the bone when you use the fork to tear it apart.
  • Use fresh spices whenever is possible. The herbs and spices play a major role to impart their flavor in this recipe.
  • The amount of water stated in this recipes depends on the shape of your pot and also the heat of the stove.  Make sure the volume of water is sufficient to cover all the oxtail to extract the flavor efficiently.
  • You may want to change the quantities of herbs and spices based on your preference.  However, I suggest you follow this recipe if you cook it for the first time.  The amount required depends on the freshness of the herbs and also the size.  For example, some cardamoms are twice the size of another species.  The best practice is to taste it and add more if necessary.
  • Prepare the deep fried shallot in advance and keep in an airtight container. The shallots taste best when it is crispy.
  • If you want to serve the soup as a one-pot meal, the best way is to complement with butter rolls or steamed rice.
  • As an alternative, prepare mutton, chicken or beef soup the same way as oxtail soup. Just cook by following the recipe by substituting the oxtail with the meat that you want.

The Malaysian oxtail soup recipe

Yield: 4 people

Oxtail soup (Malaysian style)

Oxtail soup (Malaysian style)

If you wish to put your spin on the existing oxtail soup recipe that you have, try this unorthodox way of preparing the soup.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

A- for the soup

  • 750 g oxtail , , cut into 1-2 cm thick
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 100 g onion, cut into small pieces
  • 100 g potato , , cut into large pieces
  • 100 g carrot , , cut into thick slices
  • 25 g ginger, , sliced
  • 30 g garlic, , sliced
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1.5 liters water
  • 5 bird’s eye chilies , , cut into half
  • 1 stalk coriander leaves
  • 100 g tomato , , cut into large pieces
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

B- for the spices

C- for garnish

  • lime, , use juice only
  • Fried onions, , garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat up the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the oxtail and sear it until both sides turn slightly brown.
  2. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and saute together for a minute.
  3. Add sufficient water to over all the ingredients.
  4. Put the coriander seeds, cloves, cardamoms, and star anise in a piece of cloth and tie it to form a bouquet garni.
  5. Add the coriander leaves, ground cumin, cinnamon stick, the bouquet garni and bird's eye chilies.
  6. Start boiling over high heat until it boils and then continue over medium heat for 2 hours until the oxtail is tender. Skim off any impurity, scum, and fat that accumulates at the top occasionally.
  7. Add the tomato, potato, and carrot. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  8. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar.
  9. When it is ready to serve, squeeze the lime juice into the soup.
  10. Ladle the oxtail soup into a bowl, garnish with crispy deep fried shallots and coriander leaves. Serve.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

4 servings

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 674Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 173mgSodium: 2332mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 6gSugar: 15gProtein: 55g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 6/1/2019

Fred

Thursday 1st of April 2021

Hi KP,

Since this recipe was a big success I want to prepare the soup again, but this time with goat stewing meat or lamb stewing meat (I think Malaysians call this soup 'sup kambing', regardless the type of meat: goat or lamb, right?). I have no idea if goat meat and lamb meat need more or less simmering time than oxtail (for which you use 2 hrs and 20 minutes of simmering in this recipe, which works perfectly well). Do you have a clue? And are there other important things I should pay attention to when using goat meat or lamb meat? Is goat meat for instance very gamey and do I need to pre-process it first?

Thanks and kind regards, Fred

KP Kwan

Thursday 1st of April 2021

Hi Fred, Normally I do not pre-process it first. The heavy spices in the soup should cover any gamey taste of goat meat. If you are outside Malaysia, chances are you will get lamb which is more tender. As such, Two hours and above will be too long in my opinion. I do not know exactly how long it takes, but the endpoint should be when the meat is tender and soft. Enjoy! KP Kwan

Fred

Tuesday 20th of October 2020

Hi KP,

This seems to be a very good recipe and I plan to prepare it this week with an oxtail if available. If oxtail is not available, I like to use chicken chunks with bones instead. In that case: how long should I simmer the chicken chunks? I assume chicken won't need 2 hrs plus 20 minutes of simmering like the oxtail pieces. What do you think: perhaps 45 minutes of simmering in total for chicken chunks with bones? Should I sear the chicken chunks as well for extra flavour?

KP Kwan

Tuesday 20th of October 2020

Hi Fred, If you use chicken chunks, 45 to 1 minutes should be good enough. In Malaysian over, we do not sear it, but it is a good way to enhance the flavor. KP Kwan

Jessica

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

Is there a good substitute for birds eye Chili’s? I have young kids so spicey doesn’t always go over well.

KP Kwan

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

Hi Jessica, Bird's eye chilies are very hot. I suggest you leave it out so that everyone can enjoy the soup. It still tastes good. KP Kwan

Chen

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

I followed your recipe but with a much reduced amount of spice as most of them are out of stock because of COVID! Nevertheless it was very delicious and my family of 9 loved it! Thank you for sharing!

KP Kwan

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

Hi Chen, I am glad to know that it works even though it is a tone down version due to the out-of-stock situation. Stay safe, and enjoy cooking! KP Kwan

Brenda Beale

Sunday 8th of September 2019

Love, Love, Love this soup!!! Thank you so much for sharing it! I used my instant pot and cut the time to 40 minutes of pressure cooking followed by a 20 minute natural release. I also used chicken broth instead of water and about 3 Tlb of tomato paste (mixed in when sautéing the onion, garlic and ginger) My husband spent a lot of time in Penang and says this is better than what he could get there. We will be eating this soup a lot over the winter.

KP Kwan

Sunday 8th of September 2019

Hi Brenda, Thanks so much for trying the recipe, which I am sure there is a nostalgic filling of your time spent in Penang. Glad that you and your husband like it. KP Kwan

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