Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.
You probably wouldn’t guess it, but Hawai‘i is one of the nation’s top consumers of oxtails. You can get oxtail soup in restaurants all over the islands, but the dipping sauce from the Alley Restaurant in Aiea Bowl on the island of O‘ahu is the one I dream about—and it was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Plan ahead when making this soup, as it requires 2 days’ time.
- 4 to 5 pounds oxtail
- 4 cups beef broth
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 3 whole star anise
- One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 4 pieces dried mandarin peel (from 1 orange; see Note)
- 1 tablespoon Hawaiian salt (‘alaea)
- 1 cup raw peanuts, skinned
- ¼ cup peeled and grated fresh ginger, drained
- ½ cup peeled and finely grated daikon radish (solids and juice)
- ⅓ cup light soy sauce (shoyu)
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1½ teaspoons sambal oelek
- To Serve
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, chopped
- 8 to 10 baby bok choy, blanched and flashed in cold water
- ½ head napa cabbage (won bok), shredded
- 3 cups steamed rice
Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Cut the oxtails into segments and parboil for 30 minutes. Drain the oxtails and rinse in water to remove any scum. Let cool slightly before using a sharp knife to trim away all excess fat.
Return the cleaned and trimmed oxtails to the pot and add the beef and chicken broths. Add water to cover the oxtails by 2 inches. Add the star anise, ginger, mushrooms, mandarin peel, and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 2 hours.
Skim any scum off the top, add the peanuts, cover, and continue to simmer for another 2 hours. The oxtail meat should be tender and falling off the bone after 4 hours total. If it isn’t, continue boiling, with the lid on, until it is. At this point, remove the pot from the heat and let the soup cool to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill overnight. This does two things: it allows the fat to float to the top and solidify, and it gives the aromatics a chance to infuse the broth and oxtails.
In the morning, or an hour before you’re ready to serve, remove the pot from the refrigerator and skim off the solidified fat. Heat the pot of soup, with the lid on, over medium heat until it comes to a moderate boil. If desired, remove the shiitake mushrooms from the soup and remove the stems with a sharp knife. Slice the mushrooms thinly and return to the soup.
To make the sauce, meanwhile combine the ginger, daikon, soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil, and sambal oelek in a small bowl. Be sure to taste it and adjust the flavors to your liking.
To serve, ladle the oxtails and broth into large bowls. Garnish the bowls with cilantro, green onions, baby bok choy, and napa cabbage (or any other toppings you’d prefer). Serve with individual bowls of hot white rice and individual bowls of the sauce, which can be used to dip the meat into or poured right into the broth!
Note: To make dried mandarin peel, score an organic mandarin orange into quarters, remove the peel, and use a sharp paring knife to separate the peel from the white pith. Set out the peel to dry in a sunny spot for 1 week before using. Alternatively, peels can be placed on a rimmed baking sheet and dried in an oven set to the lowest temperature for 3 hours, until curled and dried. Any type of mandarin, including tangerines, satsumas, and the like, can be used.