Oxtail Soup: an Easy Malaysian-style Soup Perfect for Rainy Evenings

Hearty oxtail soup for the Malaysian soul

So, what’s the difference between an oxtail stew and an oxtail soup?

Very little, to be honest, aside from a few small yet key components that make all the difference in flavour between the Western style stew versus the more South East Asian style soup aka ‘sup’. Both dishes contain oxtail as well as other common ingredients such carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and beef stock. But while oxtail stew uses ‘fresher’ herbs such as thyme, bay leaves and rosemary, Malaysian oxtail soup (as well as the Indonesian style sup buntut) uses stronger, complex spices such as cinnamon, star anise and cardamom to flavour this hearty dish. And even though the actual weight of the herbs and spices used are very little in contrast to all the other ingredients, it’s amazing how much of an impact it makes to the overall flavour of the dish, turning it into a ‘stew’, or a ‘soup’.

We admit that not everyone likes the ‘spiciness’ of Malaysian style oxtail soup, but if you’re a fan, you may be surprised at how surprisingly easy it is to make. You don’t need to head out to restaurant to get your hands on, more often than not, far too oily sup. It does require time though, but oxtail soup keeps well and always tastes better the next day anyway. So, don’t be afraid to make a big batch, whether for your own self or your family.

For the pressure cooker:
  • 2kg oxtail, pre-cut into 4 to 5cm chunks from the butcher
  • 1 litre beef stock
  • 1 3” cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 30g ginger, lightly smashed
  • 12g galangal, lightly smashed
  • 5g lemongrass, bottom only, lightly smashed (about 1 lemongrass)
  • 520g large onions
  • 25g garlic, peeled
  • 130g celery, the entire stick, leaves removed & reserved for the soup below
  • 25g Chinese celery, stalks only, leaves removed & reserved for garnish
  • 35g ginger
For the soup:
  • 200g carrots, peeled & cut into 5cm long sticks and then sideways into 4
  • 385g potatoes, peeled & halved
  • 300g tomatoes, quartered
  • 75g green chilies, about 5 pieces
  • 25g green birds eye chilies, about 14 pieces
  • 85g snake beans, torn into 4-5cm long strips, optional
  • Celery leaves, sliced finely (see Aromatics above)
  • 5g lemongrass, bottom only, about 1 stick
  • 2 pieces kaffir lime leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 parcel sup bunjut
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • 2 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 100ml cooking oil
To serve:
  • Fried shallots
  • Chinese parsley, leaves only
  • Lime, halved
  • French bread, sliced at an angle, about 2cm thick & buttered generously

Serves: 8

  1. Put all pressure cooker ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook on high heat until ready. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, read our tips below.
  2. Remove the lid of the pressure cooker. Turn down the heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour.
  3. While the oxtail simmers, remove leaves from celery and Chinese parsley and set aside for the soup and garnish.
  4. In a food processer, blend all aromatic ingredients until fine. If needed, add a little water to aid the blending process. Set aside until oxtail has simmered for an hour.
  5. Prepare and cut the rest of your ingredients while waiting
Vegetables nicely cut and ready for cooking
Let’s cook oxtail soup!
  1. In a stockpot, heat cooking until ready for frying.
  2. Add in blended aromatics and lemongrass stalk. Sauté until lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes.
  3. Pour the entire contents of the pressure cooker into the stockpot. Do this carefully as the pressure cooker will be heavy and very hot.
  4. Add in sup bunjut, potatoes, kaffir lime leaves, black pepper, fish sauce and beef stock.
  5. Bring to a boil on high heat and let it boil for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add carrots, tomato, snake beans and all chilies (if using). Also add lime juice. Boil for another 20 minutes.
All the ingredients have been added into the boiling soup
  1. Turn down the heat to simmer and let it cook for a final 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. This extra cooking time really enhances the flavours of the soup.
  2. When ready to serve, dish out one or two pieces of oxtail into a bowl and fill it with soup. Sprinkle fried shallots, Chinese parsley, and add a wedge of lime. Serve with buttered French bread on the side.
Extra tips
  1. If you don’t have beef stock, chicken stock is also ok.
  2. No pressure cooker, no problem. Add all pressure cooker ingredients to a stockpot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to simmer, remove cover, and cook for about two hours or until the oxtail is fall-off-the-bone tender.
  3. The optional snake beans are especially useful if you have kids in the house who don’t like to eat their vegetables. If you don’t like snake beans in your soup, they won’t impact your soup’s flavour if you skip them.
  4. If you don’t plan to eat it straightaway, your oxtail soup will taste even better tomorrow. Let it cool completely in the stockpot before transferring the soup to airtight containers and storing them in the fridge. When you’re ready to reheat your soup, skim any solidified oil on the surface of the soup for extra strong flavours.
  5. If you’re storing your soup and don’t plan to eat it all in one go, portion it into single servings for easy heating. You can also freeze extra soup for two to three months.

Pretty easy, right? And it doesn’t require that much attention too during the cooking process besides the occasional stir. If you want a heavier meal, this oxtail soup recipe also goes great with ghee rice. Give our recipe a try and let us know how you like it by hashtagging us with #butterkicap!

Related articles:

Ghee Rice: Nasi Minyak Made Easy

Lodeh Recipe: A Hearty and Rich Vegetable Soup

Sup Ayam: Resepi Gaya Malaysia yang Enak, Berkhasiat dan Menenangkan Hati

Butterkicap Team

We're just a small group of friends who love food, culture and Malaysia. We saw the rise of mediocre food, deteriorating relationships and missed the good old days of Malaysia where food was good, homes were warmer and full of friends and family. So we rolled up our sleeves, and made Butterkicap with the hope that it will bring people and flavors home.

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