I love almost every cuisine in the world, and I say ‘almost’ only because I believe, having not yet travelled most of the world, there will be more to be discovered. All my favourite foods are of all kinds of cuisine. However, I must admit that if I were forced to pick a kind, it will always be Cantonese, not Asian, but specifically Cantonese. I believe my upbringing from a Hongkie and Taiwanese (but love Hongkie food) set of parents may be the reason behind this.
This dish is learnt off from my mother and is commonly made with beef brisket, which was what she taught me. It is also quite similar to a Yum Cha dish – dim sum tripe stew or ngau tzap in Cantonese. This Yum Cha dish is one of our utmost favourites for Ben and I, which brings me to our story.
The very first time I cooked a meal for Ben, it was only our 5th date and I was a nervous wreck. I knew he loved eating (still does), like incredibly obsessed with eating, like myself thankfully. I struggled to think of which dish to cook so I ended up cooking five main dishes to impress him, which was way too many for only two people. I had to act cool and lie saying ‘nah, this is the usual amount, I like to cook a variety and bulk cook for the week’. Out of the many, I chose to include this braised oxtail dish, which to be honest, at that time of my life, considered expensive. I was cooking the last dish and Ben, oh poor Ben… he became incredibly impatient and hungrier like a dinosaur as he breathed in the amazing aroma that filled up the tiny apartment room. After the fifth or sixth ‘is it ready yet?’, I told him to dig in first without me, secretly testing him if he would wait for me, and believe it or not, he dug in with absolutely no hesitation. Hearing him constantly making genuine ‘hmmmm‘ sounds of approval, I couldn’t be mad at him for not waiting, and the most incredible thing that came out of this night, was that as he devoured the oxtail with its meat melting in his mouth, his heart slowly melted away for me. This dish ultimately made my amazing husband fall in love with me – so he said.
As mentioned before, this type of dish is usually made with beef brisket with or without additional tripe, however, I personally love oxtail, and often decide to either only use oxtail or a combination of oxtail with beef brisket. I know, many of you might probably think ‘ew, oxtail?! can we even eat that?’ or that it’s unusual, but what you should know is that if done probably, it can taste amazing, that’s why it is actually more expensive! Oxtail meat is more tender and juicier compared to the drier beef brisket, mainly because of the extra fat and gelatin. Its excellent in stews or for making a rich beef stock, like our Vietnamese beef pho (recipe yet to come!). So, you must give this a try!
To be honest, this is a simple recipe, with minimal preparation needed. Unlike most recipes that have additional spices like star anise, different soy sauces or oyster sauce for seasoning, I realized just having the two main sauces – Lee Kum Kee Chu Hou sauce and Hoisin sauce are more than sufficient, without the need for salt. Sometimes for a different or spicier taste, I may exchange the Chu Hou sauce with chilli bean sauce (in mandarin – Dou Ban Jiang). If you like your foods saltier, you may either further reduce the liquid sauce at the end or add soy sauce or salt (but you’ll find that many recipes don’t add salt,mainly because these pre-made sauces contain a fair amount of salt already).
With the garlic bulbs… yes I like to add that many. I tend to keep them mostly with their skins in their groups which makes discarding easier later on. However, sometimes I do like to eat some especially given they fall off the skins so easily and they taste amazing!
Daikons… if you never heard of it, it’s a type of radish that Japanese like to use a lot. Occasionally, it can give a very mild bitter aftertaste. To avoid this, you may use raw rice with water or rice rinsing water to separately cook them in first under they become slightly tender, and then you add it in the oxtail pot to simmer for another 20-30 minutes. The bitter aftertaste very rarely occurs and when it does, it’s very mild and I often like it, so I usually skip this step. Keep in mind, if you are not a fan of daikons, you may always substitute it with carrots.
Most important message here is, if you want to win someone’s heart, you got to feed them right!
Did you win your partner’s heart through their stomach? Let us know!