Braised Oxtail Chinese Style

braised oxtail

Photo 1: Braised Oxtails Chinese Style

Beef does not play a prominent role in Cantonese cooking despite the popularity of  Westernized dishes such as Beef and Broccoli. The character 肉 translates as “meat”,  but to Cantonese cooks the word is synonymous with “pork .”  That being said it must be acknowledged that several beef dishes have become beloved standards in Chinese-American kitchens. Oxtail stew and beef tendon stew certainly qualify as Chinese-American classics. Perhaps these dishes are also popular in other Overseas Chinese communities. I would love to hear about this from readers who reside in those communities.

Oxtail and tendons are often considered poor cousins when compared with more desirable beef cuts such as steaks and prime rib. To account for their presence in Chinese-American cuisine, one might be tempted to conclude that economics played a role. That is, these were cuts that poor Chinese immigrants were able to afford. I actually don’t hold to this view. I’m convinced that taste and texture are the deciding factors. We eat oxtails because we like how they taste. If you like lamb shank or osso bucco, you’ll love oxtails.

Since this is a East Meets West preparation, I’ve taken a few liberties with my mom’s recipe. Aromatic vegetables, red wine, and cumin contribute to a richer sauce. Star anise appears in all Chinese oxtail recipes so do not omit.

I usually cook this dish over two days.  A good stopping point is right after the meat has become tender, but before the stewing vegetables are added. Separate out the meat from the sauce and refrigerate the two parts in separate containers when they have cooled. On the following day, remove the fat that has solidified on the surface of the sauce, then recombine with the meat before cooking the stewing vegetables. To be honest, when I was growing up, my mom didn’t remove the fat, so the sauce was very greasy. Nowadays, I think most people would prefer the dish minus the extra fat.

Despite the presence of potatoes, this dish is always served with rice.

Braised Oxtail Cantonese Style
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Cantonese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
East meets West in this updated version of a Chinese-American classic.
  • 3-4 pounds (about 1.5 kg) oxtails
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup vegetable or bacon fat
Chopped vegetables for caramelizing
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
Spices, flavorings, and stock
  • 1 teaspoon cumin or curry powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
Stewing vegetables
  • ¾ pound (320 g) Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes, chunks
  • 1 turnip (about ½ pound or 225 g), chunks
  • 2 carrots, chunks
  1. Trim as much fat as possible off each piece of oxtail. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a seal-able plastic bag or a container with a lid. Add the oxtails and tumble until the meat is well-coated with the flour mixture.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or braising pan over medium high heat. Shake off any excess flour, the sear the meat on all sides until thoroughly brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and add chopped vegetables to the pan. Cook the vegetables until they start to turn brown and caramelize, about 8-10 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, add the spices, wine and stock. When the liquid starts to boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours or more. The meat is done when it comes off the bone when pricked with a fork. Remove and discard the bay leaves and the star anise.
  4. [Optional step] Separate the meat from the sauce and refrigerate overnight in separate containers. On the following day remove the solidified fat on the top of the sauce. Return the meat and sauce to the braising pan.
  5. Add the stewing vegetables and cook for 25 minutes.
  6. Serve with rice.


Photo 2: Sear the oxtails until brown on all sides.

Photo 2: Sear the oxtails until brown on all sides.


Photo 3: Cook the vegetables until they start to caramelize.