Monday, October 24, 2016

Old Fashioned Hawaiian Oxtail Soup

     Old Fashioned Rich Dark Broth Oxtail Soup!
     This is the Hawaiian oxtail soup version that is served at many restaurants in downtown Las Vegas.  Las Vegas is known as the ninth Hawaiian island and the Hawaiian food is authentic.  Dining in a Las Vegas Hawaiian restaurant is a laid back experience.  The portion size of the Hawaiian food tends to be large and that creates customer satisfaction. 
     There really is not a lot of cattle ranching that goes on in the Hawaiian islands, but oxtail is popular there.  Oxtail does not come from an ox.  Oxtails are a cattle tails.  Oxtail used to sell dirt cheap and it was a real bargain, because there was plenty of meat on the bones.  Since oxtail has reached new heights in popularity, it now sells for a much higher price than it used to.  Even so, oxtail is still a great choice for a hearty meal.
     There are four major Asian influences in modern Hawaiian cuisine.  Over the years, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine has fused with Hawaiian style cooking to create unique new recipes.  
     There are two popular modern versions of Hawaiian oxtail soup.  One version is made Vietnamese style with a light broth, mustard greens and plenty of vegetables.  The internet is flooded with recipes for the Vietnamese style Hawaiian oxtail soup and a person might think that this is the only way this soup is made.  The Vietnamese style Hawaiian oxtail soup is rarely served in Las Vegas.  Las Vegas Hawaiian food tends to be old fashioned and traditional.
     The Filipino influence in Hawaiian cuisine goes farther back in history than most of the other Asian cuisine influences.  Traditional Filipino and Hawaiian cuisine has roots in Polynesian cuisine.  This cooking style is completely different than Vietnamese style cooking.  
     Today's Hawaiian Oxtail Soup looks simple, but it is not easy to achieve the signature dark rich broth flavor.  It takes hours of slow simmering to make this soup.  Usually smaller oxtail pieces are used to make this soup, but big meaty pieces of oxtail are a welcome sight.  Whatever size oxtail a cook has on hand is what goes in the pot!
     Many chefs take the meat off of the oxtail bones and display the meat in the broth fine dining style.  That is okay, but customers like to see the oxtail bones in the bowl.  Cooking this soup till the meat falls off of the bones is okay too, but some customers view that as an over cooked oxtail soup.  
     The worst version of this Hawaiian oxtail soup that I have ever seen was published by a chef in the British Isles.  The meat was so over cooked that it was shredded.  The soup looked like a bowl of boneless shredded beef with very little broth.  When oxtail soup looks like that, customers question whether the beef in the soup is really even oxtail.  
     There is a fine line between when oxtail meat is cooked to where the meat is ready to fall off of the bones and when the meat actually falls off of the bones on its own.  Oxtail in a soup is best when it is tender enough to require being handled gently and carefully to keep the oxtail from falling apart.  
     The oxtail pieces should be whole when served.  When the customer touches the oxtail with a utensil, the meat should easily fall off the bone.  This is a good goal to keep in mind when making this Hawaiian oxtail soup.  The meat of the oxtail in the pictures was tender enough to fall off of the bone after being gently prodded with a chopstick.  The oxtail has a classic dark look and that is the color to aim for.  

     Old Fashioned Hawaiian Oxtail Soup:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion of soup!  
     The larger the oxtail pieces, the larger the bones.  Smaller oxtail pieces work best, but large oxtail pieces look impressive in a bowl.  
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add 7 to 9 ounces of oxtail pieces.  (The weight of the bone does vary.  The goal is to have about 5 ounces of meat.)
     Sauté the oxtail pieces till they are darkly browned on all sides.  Smaller oxtail pieces will cook faster, so remove them from the pot till the larger pieces finish.)
     Step 2:  Remove the oxtail pieces from the pot and set them aside.
     Drain the excess grease out of the pot.
     Step 3:  Return the pot to medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Deglaze the pot.  (Scrape the brown fond (suc) that is stuck on the bottom of the pan into the liquid.)
     Step 4:  Add 1 tablespoon of palm sugar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.
     Add 1/3 cup of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add 2 crushed garlic cloves.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced ginger.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Return the oxtails to the pot.
     Step 5:  Simmer and reduce the liquid, till a syrup glaze forms.  Flip the oxtails in the liquid as it reduces, so they become thoroughly marinated and glazed.  (This step adds a lot of flavor!) 
     Step 6:  Add enough water to cover the browned oxtail pieces with 1" of extra liquid.  (About 5 or 6 cups.)
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the soup till the oxtail meat is tender enough to start falling off of the bones.  Remove each oxtail piece from the soup as it finishes and set it aside.  (Smaller pieces will become tender faster than large pieces.)
     Step 8:  After the tender oxtail pieces are removed and only the broth remains in the pot, raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce the broth, till only about 3 1/4 cups of broth remain.
     Return the oxtail pieces to the broth.
     Return the broth to a gentle boil to heat the oxtail pieces.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat and keep the soup warm.  

     The brown rice can be cooked while the oxtail soup simmers.
     Step 1:  Use tongs or a slotted spoon to place the tender oxtail pieces in a large soup bowl.
     Pour about 3 cups of the oxtail broth in the bowl.  (Any extra broth can be saved to flavor noodle recipes!)
     Step 2:  Float 2 to 3 very thin slices of onion on the broth.
     Place 1 small portion of brown rice in the bowl.
     Garnish with a curly leaf parsley sprig.

     The hardest part of cooking this soup is dealing with the long wait.  The rich aroma from the simmering Old Fashioned Hawaiian Oxtail Soup literally causes hunger pangs, so grab a snack while this soup slowly simmers!

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