Chinese Oxtail Noodle Soup is one of the dishes I crave when I'm a little under the weather. By 'under the weather' this can mean genuinely sick or just 'meh', but can also, and most commonly can just mean hungover. If I've over indulged on the beers, wines and spirits the night before, a good, old fashioned Asian soup has all the restorative qualities my body is craving. I go for all kinds of soup, usually a Pho or a life giving guzzle of Malaysian Prawn Laksa and of course a Chinese beef broth noodle soup, like this treasure.
Ready in a few simple steps
This Chinese Oxtail Noodle Soup is really easy to put together. Ready in a few simple steps:
- Roast the oxtails for 30 minutes (put them on a tray - easy!)
- Put all the soup ingredients into the Instant Pot with the roasted oxtails and press the button for 2 hours (exhausted yet?!)
- Strain the soup and pick the meat off the oxtails (hardly tasking, agree?)
- Pour the broth over some cooked rice noodles (10 seconds to cook) and sprinkle over some spring onion (that's it!)
Instant Pot to the rescue
A good Asian soup needs a good broth. This normally comes in the form of a long-cooked stock made from animal bones. Think Japanese Ramen, Vietnamese Pho and Chinese chicken or beef bone broths. In an ideal world, I would have the foresight and cook panfuls of the stuff all the time, but in the real world we need a bit of help to make slow, faster!
The Instant Pot is a real triumph when it comes to creating stocks and broths - cutting the cooking time by some 66%!! So, in this case, a 6 hour broth takes only 2 hours. That's worth the wait right!? If you don't have an Instant pot, I give instructions for stove-top cooking too, you'll just have longer to wait - sorry!
Oxtails - a misunderstood ingredient
So, to the soup! I just love Oxtails - they're a GREAT ingredient in stocks and stews - you can extract an amazing amount of flavour from these often ignored cut of beef. There's a lot of cartilage and some bone, and also a little meat - so it's the best of all worlds for drawing out all the flavour of beef - a sweet, sticky and goodness filled elixir.
In the West, as is the case with many ingredients, we've forgotten how to cook with the less popular cuts of meat. Convenience food and mass production has homogenised our supermarket shelves into a lineup of the 'usual suspects'. Finding, let alone using, more unusual cuts can be a challenge, none more so than Oxtails.
That said, if you look hard enough, these ingredients are actually available everywhere, from Walmart to your local supermarket - normally relegated to a tiny section all of its own. They are of course, well stocked in the refrigerated or frozen section of any Asian supermarket. Just be persistent and you'll find them!
A simple list of ingredients
My Chinese Oxtail Noodle soup uses a simple roll-call of ingredients. Each brings a essential component to compliment the rich, meaty oxtails and when cooked no one ingredient dominates - the broth is a harmonious, fragrant amalgamation of everything. The use of Sichuan peppercorns brings a sweet, peppery note to the broth, with a slight nod to its unique numbing quality - it's magical! And the dark soy enhances the wonderful rich dark broth while bringing a rounded saltiness.
There are no clever techniques at play here – see for yourself in video recipe below. It's just a case of popping everything in the Instant Pot and waiting for 2 hours. Time to go back to bed and sleep a bit of that hangover off perhaps? You end up with the most delicious, authentic Chinese soup you've ever tasted. And you didn't need to leave the house.
Arranging the final dish
Once you've cooked the broth, it's just a case of arranging everything in a bowl. Separate the meat from the fat and bones and then cook some fresh or dried rice noodles. Then you just bring them all together with a sprinkling of spring onion. Now all you need to do is hunker down and get slurping - remember the Asian rule, louder you slurp the more appreciation you're showing to the chef!
Substitutes and other suggestions
If you can't get hold of oxtails, fear not - just use beef bones - you won't get the meat at the end, but that's not a massive deal - this soup is filling without. If you like, when the broth is finished and strained, you can add a few chunks of potato or turnip to the broth and cook until soft. This is a welcome addition to your 5-a-day. If you can't get rice noodles, use flour or egg noodles. You can also ABSOLUTELY use Italian flour noodles, i.e. spaghetti! For realz!
If you're in the market for something Chinese that isn't soup, why not try my melt-in-the-hand Wuxi Pork Spare Ribs, my Xinjiang Lamb Skewers or the super easy Chinese Sheet Pan Chicken Wings? Or maybe just a bowl of rice with a deliciously stir-fried Snow Pea Shoots with Garlic?