Hawaii's oxtail soup is nourishing. Tender oxtails are slow cooked in a savory broth of with ginger and spices like star anise and bay leaves.
Hawaii's Famous Oxtail Soup
Every Hawaii local knows and loves oxtail soup. On the mainland people love oxtail stews, but in Hawaii we are all about the oxtail soup!
This soup is soothing and nourishing. It features a savory clear broth with lots of meaty and tender oxtail pieces. The broth hints of ginger and popular spices like bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and dried tangerine peels (chen pi).
We enjoy oxtail soup with a side of rice (two scoops, please). Plus julienned ginger and soy sauce for dipping. It's delicious! I hope you will love this recipe as much as we do ^_^
A Local Dish
Many mainland friends call this dish Hawaiian Oxtail Soup, but this is a local dish, not a Hawaiian dish. Here's the difference. A more correct name for this dish is:
- Hawaii-Style Oxtail Soup
- Local Oxtail Soup
- Oxtail Soup
We understand when visitors request Hawaiian Oxtail Soup, but forgive us for correcting....we appreciate when people make the effort to learn that Hawaiian food and local food are two completely different things.
Oxtail Soup in Hawaii
Many families make oxtail soup at home (it's always the first dinner my sister requests when she comes back to visit from the mainland).
Many restaurants in Hawaii also feature oxtail soup on the menu. Try this recipe first, and then the next time you're in Hawaii try oxtail soup from these popular local spots:
- Aiea Bowl / The Alley Restaurant Bar & Grill (Oahu) - This restaurant located inside a bowling alley. I've never gone bowling here, but I have been in many times just to eat ^_^ P.S. Don't forget to order the lemon crunch and pumpkin crunch for dessert.
- Kam Bowl (Oahu) - They also offer oxtail ramen.
- Asahi Grill (Oahu) - They also have oxtail ramen on the menu.
- Kapiolani Coffee Shop (Oahu) - People say that Kam Bowl and Kapiolani Coffee Shop actually share the same family recipe.
This recipe has two parts. One part is for making the soup. The other part is for serving the soup. Here's what you'll need:
For the Soup
- Oxtails - You can find oxtails at most Asian markets and at Costco Hawaii.
- Whole onion - Peel and place the whole onion into the soup
- Ginger - Add as much ginger as you like, we like it very ginger-y. So warming, so good. Two ways of using ginger in this recipe. First way: add big smashed slices at the beginning of cooking (which you'll remove later on), this is the more "traditional" way. Second way: add peeled and julienned ginger towards the end of cooking (which you leave in the soup and eat).
- Bay Leaves
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Whole Star Anise
- Dried Tangerine Peels (Chen Pi) - Can find at any Chinese market
- Carrots or Daikon (optional) - you can use one or both, or just skip the vegetables entirely.
- Fish Sauce (Nuoc Nam) - To season the soup. Fish sauce and sea salt are the only two seasoning ingredients you need.
- Hawaiian Sea Salt - Also to season the soup. Use regular sea salt if you don't have Hawaiian Sea Salt.
- Chinese Parsley
- Green Onions
- Ginger - Ginger is used for both cooking and for serving! For serving we use julienned ginger (we julienned a bunch of ginger at once and then freeze it so that we always have ginger ready to use).
- Soy Sauce - We like the Aloha (less salty) or Kikkoman (more salty) brands.
There are three key steps to this recipe:
Prepare The Oxtails
Preparing the oxtails involves:
- Cut off the excess fat (oxtails are delicious but quite fatty)
- Parboil the oxtails (to remove scum and any dirty bits)
- Then do a quick second rinse/cleaning (just to make it extra nice!)
Make The Soup
Simmer the oxtails with water (or chicken broth) and a number of classic spices. This step is just lots of sitting and waiting ^_^
Note: You can use all water, all chicken broth, or a mix of both. No chicken broth? No stress, the chicken broth is just a bonus for more flavor. It will still be super delicious made with water.
Season And Serve
Season with just two ingredients (fish sauce and Hawaiian sea salt).
Then serve with lots of Chinese parsley and green onions on top. Don't forget the rice and dipping sauce (a small dish of julienned ginger and soy sauce).
How To Serve
Oxtail soup in Hawaii is served in a very specific style. There are three parts to remember:
The classic Hawaii oxtail soup garnish is Chinese parsley and green onions. You want lots of both. Just chop, chop, chop and top the soup generously with the greens. Stir and eat!
The Dipping Sauce
The dipping sauce is just a little dish of soy sauce and julienned ginger. Everyone gets their own personal dipping dish. This way you can control your preferred soy sauce to ginger ratio.
This sauce is for dipping the oxtail meat. For small oxtail pieces, you can dip the oxtail directly into the dish. For larger oxtail pieces, I like to spoon the dipping sauce over the meat
We always eat oxtail soup with rice! That's how it's done in Hawaii. The idea of eating oxtail soup without rice feels strange and incomplete.
At restaurants, rice is served on the side. Picture a big steaming bowl of oxtail soup, a plate of rice, and a dipping sauce dish of ginger and soy sauce.
At home, we usually scoop rice into a big bowl and ladle oxtail soup over the rice. One less dish to clean ^_^ Don't forget the dipping sauce on the side.
Questions and Tips
It keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator. We often to make a giant pot oxtail soup so that we have lunch/dinner ready for the next few nights.
This recipe calls for carrots and/or daikon. You can use one, both, or none. Some people also like to add Chinese mustard greens (kai choy). Or you can skip all the vegetables! This dish is mainly about the oxtails and the broth.
When you order oxtail soup from a local restaurant, the only vegetables usually involved are the green onions and Chinese parsley garnishes.
If you have extra time, roast the peeled, whole onion at 400F for 20 minutes (until it browns) before adding it into the soup. It gives an extra depth of sweetness and flavor and that is very, very nice.
No. But you can freeze the raw oxtails. Sometimes we buy a ton of oxtails (like 20+ pounds!), portion them into 5 pound bags and store the oxtails in the freezer. That way we always have oxtails ready for cooking whenever we get the craving.
Every family makes their oxtail soup a little different. Our home cooking leans slightly more towards a Chinese oxtail soup (adding daikon, using more Chinese spices which results in a darker broth). Many friends add raw peanuts and dried shiitake mushrooms to the soup (this is considered a more local style).
That's the neat part about Hawaii! Food is the common bond, and we all have our own flavors and flourish. Hawaii is true melting pot of cultures.
Oxtail Soup Recipe
See below and enjoy ^_^
Hawaii's Famous Oxtail Soup
Hawaii's oxtail soup is nourishing and soothing. Tender oxtails are slow cooked in a savory broth of with ginger and good spices like star anise and bay leaves. We always eat oxtail soup with a big bowl of rice and a side dipping sauce of ginger and soy sauce. This is a classic local dish, enjoy!
- 4-5 pounds oxtails
- 1 whole onion, peeled
- 3 slices ginger, smashed
- 6 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 6 whole star anise
- 3 dried tangerine peels (chen pi)
- 12-16 cups of water and/or chicken broth
- 3 carrots or daikon (optional), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (nuoc nam)
- Hawaiian sea salt, to taste
- 1 bunch Chinese parsley
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 2-inch knob of ginger, julienned
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- Prepare the oxtail. Trim excess fat off each oxtail. Throw away the fat and set the oxtails aside.
- Parboil the oxtail. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then add all the oxtail in. Bring it back up to a boil. Cook for one more minute, letting all the scum float up to the top. Set a colander in the sink and pour out all the water.
- Let the oxtail cool for a minute (until you can pick it up with your hands). Quickly rinse/clean each oxtail under running water and set aside.
- Return the oxtails to the the same large pot and add the water and/or chicken broth. Add enough liquid to cover 1-inch above the oxtails. (This is usually about 16 cups of liquid depending on the size of your pot and weight of oxtails. Add more or less liquid as needed.)
- Add the onion, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and dried tangerine peels.
- Bring to a boil and then cook on low heat for 1 hour, until the oxtails are tender (you should be able to poke a fork through the meat easily). Scoop off as much oil as you can off the top.
- Add the carrots (optional), and cook for another 30 minutes. Season the soup with fish sauce and Hawaiian sea salt. Taste and serve!
- To serve: spoon out the soup and 3-5 pieces of oxtail per person. Top with lots of Chinese parsley and green onions. Serve with a bowl of rice and small side dish of julienned ginger and soy sauce (for dipping the oxtails). Enjoy ^_^
Wednesday 27th of July 2022
I don’t know exactly how my father seasoned oxtail soup but this brings back memories for me. Because beef shank is not as expensive as oxtail, I too would often use a combination. Since I am out of carrots and don’t have daikon, I will bean curd this time.
Saturday 16th of October 2021
Hey don’t throw flavor away. Keep the broth from parboil. I use chicken bone broth I make from last of the bones and veggies. I use the oxtail and the meat from shank this time Japanese quality. I like low carb high fiber so brown rice. Fresh greens make a big difference and overnight the soup in frig to make removing fat easy.
Sunday 14th of March 2021
Hi Kathy! I love your detailed commentary about the local foods you feature - so personal! In your Liliha Bakery post, you mentioned that your favorite oxtail soup is your family's recipe. May I ask if this recipe is your family's? You may certainly email a private reply. Thank you!
Tuesday 19th of January 2021
You need a "jump to recipe" button.
Friday 6th of November 2020
Yup; oxtail soup is one of my favorites! Your recipe and descriptions are right on! For me, I also add kai choi, hasu, and either shiitake or straw mushrooms too! When I make mine, I use oxtails for me and beef shank for my daughter and my wife. They say oxtails are too fatty for them but the beef shank is OK. The beef shank meat is "similar" in taste to oxtail, but the main thing, I think, is all the collagen in the soup from the oxtails.
My dogs love oxtail soup too! I used to take the time to strip meat off the oxtail bones for the dogs, but now I am too lazy. I just give them beef shank meat along with my daughter and wife.
Friday 6th of November 2020
Hi Alan! Oh wow I love the idea of using beef shank. Never though about that, but it totally makes sense.
Lucky wife, daughter, and dogs you have! :) - Kathy