Oxtail soup is the broth of the gods! It’s deeply robustly beefy delicious.
Shopping so often in the little Korean grocery store means that I see many foods which are unfamiliar. Though it leads me to a neighboring cuisine, I can’t help but be curious. I rarely see the tails of cattle for sale anywhere else! Imagine my surprise when I saw some lovely fresh oxtails in my regular grocery store. I grabbed a couple of packages and hurried home to find my Korean cookbook.
As you can surmise from the huge ugly snowbank in the parking lot, hot soup is very appealing!
The weather warms, the snowbanks melt and concentrate the dirt, more snow comes, and the snowbank rises. By spring there will be oily black muck where the snowbanks were.
So why did my store have oxtails? There are a number of immigrants from Mexico and Central America in this area and my store is beginning to stock items which appeal to them. Remember the oxtail soup (caldo de cola de res) in the book Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1992)?
Apparently oxtail soup is enjoyed all over the world. In Andalucia, Spain, ‘rabo de toro’ is traditionally made from the tail of bulls killed in bullfights and is seen as a delicacy. In Germany, there are two kinds of Ochsenschwanzsuppe: the country kind is eaten with the bones and veggies, the city soup is strained and thickened, served with thinly sliced leeks and fresh parsley. In the United Kingdom, it’s a thick, slightly glutinous gravy-like soup popular since the 18th century; it’s available canned by Heinz, or as a powder-mix from Knorr.
In Japanese it is called te-ru su-pu (tail soup). It is a regular item at all the Okinawan/Japanese American Restaurants on every Hawaiian Island. Whenever it’s on the menu, in all it’s variations, it may be Hawaii’s most popular lunch entrée.
In Korea, it’s called gori gomtang or kori komtang (곰탕) or gom gook (곰국). Some recipes included an onion, daikon radish or turnip, or Korean sweet potato starch noodle (glass, cellophane, or clear noodle).
did you know this soup is also know as gom (bear) gook? I thought it was a bear stew when i was younger but didn’t complain once cuz it was so damn good!“
jung, It never occurred to me that it was kom as in “bear”. that’s really cool and also makes me wonder what the original connection was, maybe linked somehow to the birth of korea myth?“
—from a comment on this Easy Oxtail Soup post
Tip: names of Korean soup dishes generally have a -guk or -t’ang suffix; names of thicker stew have a -jjigae or -jim suffix.
by Ji Sook Choe and Yukiko Moriyama
- 2 ½ pounds oxtail(1.13 kg)
- 4-inch piece of kombu (recipe uses MSG)
- salt and pepper
- 2-3 finely chopped green onions
- Condiments to eat with the soup:
kimchee, finely grated garlic mixed with soy sauce, grated ginger, or ground chili pepper
- freshly cooked white rice on the side, or added to the broth when the meat is finished
Wash the oxtail and place the joints in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Discard the water and scum. Rinse the meat.
Put the kombu and meat into a clean pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low. As the water simmers, skim off the scummy foam. When no more foam rises, cover and simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Be sure the meat is always covered with water.
The soup is done when the meat is tender: test with a skewer. In fact, the meat should be so tender that it almost falls off the bones!
Chill the soup. Remove the layer of fat from the top and discard. The broth should be gelled.
From subsequent internet research, I found many recipes which directed the cook to remove the meat and bones. The broth is then brought to a boil for a period of time—not sure how long—so the fat emulsifies with the gelatin. This is how the broth turns whitish. I believe that the meat is removed before the boiling so that it will remain tender: high heat can make protein tough.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve in warm bowls.
new earth second series, episode 1