Recipe: Sop Buntut (Oxtail Soup)


My dad’s favorite oxtail dish. Of Indonesian origin. 

A delicate broth requiring patience and the slow infusion of different aromatics. For example, cracking a whole nutmeg instead of grating it directly into the broth will allow its flavor to slowly spread. Same with crushing the ginger and galangal slightly. I find using the blunt end of my knife handle useful for this purpose. 


Sop Buntut (Oxtail Soup)


1.5 lbs oxtail

10 cups water

1″ knob ginger, peeled and sliced thickly, then slightly crushed

2″ knob galangal, peeled and sliced thickly, then slightly crushed


2 onions, peeled

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cinnamon stick

14 cloves

1 whole nutmeg, cracked slightly

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tbsp sugar


4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 carrots, peeled and cubed

1 tbsp vegetable oil


5 scallions (green part only), finely cut

Crispy fried shallots


A. In a large pot, place the oxtail pieces and add the water. Bring to a boil. You will see some greyish brown foam rise to the water surface. Skim this “scum” off with a spoon and discard. 

Add the ginger and galangal. Simmer partially covered on low heat for 2 hours. This will produce an aromatic broth. Be careful to control your fire. The simmer should be a slow one, with gentle bubbling lest the oxtail hardens. 

B. In a food processor, grind the onions till they form a paste. Take care not to overdo the grinding lest it becomes too watery! 

In a 5 quart Dutch oven, heat the oil and fry the onions until the water has evaporated and the oil glistens through. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and nutmeg and continue frying until aromatic, approximately 3 minutes. 

Carefully transfer the oxtail pieces into the Dutch oven. They will be falling off the bone at this point, so I find a flat ladle  (like a wok turner) instead of tongs useful for this purpose to keep the pieces intact. Pour in the broth, taking care not to add the debris that has settled at the bottom. 

Add the salt, pepper and sugar. Simmer on low heat for a further 1 hour. 

C. While the soup is simmering, heat 1 tbsp of oil and brown the potato cubes. Then add the carrots and toss in the oil for a minute or so. Remove and set aside. 

20 minutes before serving, add the potatoes and carrots into the broth. Turn up the heat until it starts simmering again then turn the heat back down. 

D. To serve, skim off the layer of oil on top of the broth surface. You want a very pure broth. Then garnish with scallions and fried shallots. 

Served here with steamed jasmine rice and a side of cucumber salad. 



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