Sop Buntut, Oxtail Soup (Part I)


We once lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, calling the Hotel Borobudur “home” for nearly five years. The hotel was famous for it’s Sop Buntut, or Indonesian Style Oxtail Soup, an incredibly rich and delicious food served with pickles, sambal (chili sauce) and kecap manis (a mix of palm sugar and soy sauce). It was served with fried prawn or belinjo nut crackers and overall it was serious heart attack material. In those days, I was 30+ pounds lighter, and used to work 18 hour days, so I would indulge in a bowl of this comforting soup at least once a week! This is a dish we have never bothered to try cooking at home, believing that a home sized portion would simply never approximate the giant gurgling cauldron of soup that was constantly cooking at the Cafe of the Hotel Borobudur…


But all this recent dieting and a monthly trip to Cash & Carry (a grocery), yielded nearly 3 kilos of meaty and promising Australian ox tails at very reasonable prices, so I decided to splurge with an Indonesian meal on Sunday evening, calories be damned. :) After all, calories consumed on Sunday don’t count, right? The soup/broth was started on Saturday afternoon and cooked for several hours… I read several recipes for Sop Buntut, and nearly all of them simple boiled the oxtails with spices for a few hours to create the broth, like we make a nilagang baka perhaps… but I have always found the soup a bit pale or blonde, so when i came across an internet recipe on a Javanese food site that suggested browning the oxtails first, I thought I would try that and end up with a richer brown stock… But the rest of the recipe is a mish mash of ingredients and techniques from several sources, all of which were rather casual about this dish I held in such high regard…


I brushed roughly 2.2 kilos of oxtails, sliced roughly 3/4 to 1 inch thick (ideally I would have wanted them 1 and 1/2 inch thick) some vegetable oil, laid them flat on baking pans, and stuck them in a 425 degree oven for about 45 minutes until browned. I then placed all of the browned oxtails in a large pot, added HALF of the rendered fat, then de-glazed the pans with some water to get all the browned bit stuck to the pans and added that to the oxtails. Next, I added the spices which are the key to that “Indonesian taste,” 3 cracked nutmegs, roughly 15 cloves, one cinnamon stick, a large knob of smashed galangal from our garden, a large piece of smashed ginger and several whole peppercorns. Bring this to a boil and turn the heat down to the point that the soup just BARELY gurgles. This my take up to 2 hours or so to soften the meat. And frankly, at this point, I thought I had a TOTAL DISASTER on my hands as the meat was rock hard from the browning process.


After about 2 hours, the meat seemed a little softer and the broth was tasting quite flavorful, and I added about 1/2 tablespoon of salt and two tablespoons of sugar. The broth was a nice dark brown and still a bit watery so I let it cook a bit more, before turning off the heat and allowing it to cool for some 30 minutes. I then transferred the oxtails to a new pot, strained the broth into the new pot, removing all the bits of ginger, cloves, etc., then but this into an ice bath to cool it down quickly before an overnight check in at Hotel Refrigerator… The next day, this shockingly THICK surface crust of solid beef tallow or fat was removed (over a cup+ worth!) and the soup was brought to room temperature before doing the last few steps prior to serving… Now we were working with a FAT FREE soup…heeheehee.


19 Responses

  1. I’m glad you skimmed off the fat for a hearty, healthier soup. Does this mean, the fun is about to start again?

    Are we back to Lechon chronicles part deux?

  2. This is one recipe i have to try. I often had oxtail soup in Honolulu which had star anise and pine nuts, really good! Pardon my ignorance MM but what’s galanggal? Can i nutmeg powder if i can’t find fresh nutmeg?

  3. mary joan, galangal, in this earlier post. And yes, you can substitute nutmeg powder, but sparingly… It might overpower the broth. millet, we have a small plant in the garden, s this piece was picked minutes before peeling it…

  4. I have started planting vegetables in a little farm that I inherited from my mom in Quezon and since my american husband loves galangal and tumeric, I would sure ask my farmer cousin to find some rhiozome for “langkas”. Thank you fellow bloggers for giving information that there is a local “galangal” in our country. I now live in Houston and in most vietnamese stores they have fresh varieties of different herbs including these 2, but they don’t have kamrut.

  5. Marketman, I think you mean Melinjo crackers, not belinjo. And you have just made me reschedule my afternoon around an afternoon trip to the market for oxtail!

  6. I just saw little hills of galangal when I went past the market today. First time to see them fresh here in HK- or maybe I wasn’t paying attention before. Yahoo!

  7. Hi, this is one of the recipes that I would try sa birthday ng aking Unica Hija. Off topic question though, where do I get pine nuts and Batuan puree? Please tell me as I need to prepare for my daughter’s birthday. Would love to come to that lechon feast of yours but since I am reverted to islam, di na pwede.
    Please advise me. Thanks!

  8. do you know that oxtail is not available in Greece? I fell in love with oxtail when I lived in the English countryside buying it from local butchers.

    I will be in Athens in few days…

  9. Oh man! I miss Sop Buntut! I used to live in Jakarta as well and simply loved the food there (Sate Ayaw, Nasa Goreng, Sop Kaki Kambing and many more)… that’s why I ballooned to the way I am now.

  10. I miss the oxtail soup in honolulu preferably the one sold inside YMCA. May I have the recipe of the ala hawaii. much thanks and best regards

  11. wow tnx MM for posting the recipe! my husband really loves and miss the SOP BUNTUT in hotel borobudur!



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