As with many Cambodian stews, Oxtail and Pineapple Soup is fairly simple, starting off with just beef, onions and pineapple. Complexity and nuance come only toward the end, as diners choose from all manner of seasonings and vegetables to stir into their individual bowls, unleashing a symphony of flavors.
When it all comes together, the overall visual effect is quite pleasing, as pictured below:The flavor is spectacular too, as chopped roasted garlic adds an almost nutty zip that enlivens the rich broth and wraps around the meat. Fresh cilantro, basil and chopped scallions contribute a green freshness that also contrasts nicely with the other ingredients and keeps the soup light.
Though it’s a beef stew, the veggies ensure the soup is refreshing enough to enliven even a sweltering August day. In fact, it’s sprightly enough even in its native Cambodia, a jungled, tropical land with conditions so far beyond the August “swelter” most of us bemoan. That’s why the recipe made the list when My Linh Nakry featured it on her Cambodia Recipe website.
The other reason is the pineapple, a personal favorite. Just look at that gorgeous color! The visuals only are the beginning. The burst of sweet and sour juiciness complements the greens perfectly, and makes the soup, if anything, even brighter. There’s chemistry too, as pineapple harbors an enzyme that naturally tenderizes beef, which is then easier yet to eat.
Just one of the many ingredients elevating today’s soup to stardom, and making it worthy of replication halfway around the world. By itself Oxtail and Pineapple Soup is delicious, yet when all the magic is mixed in…superb!
Oxtail and Pineapple Soup
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (*1)
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 2 pounds oxtail (*2)
- 1 yellow onion, sliced (*3)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 7 cups water
- 1/2 pineapple, cut into chunks (*4)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar (*5)
- 2 scallions, chopped
- a handful of rice paddy herb and fresh basil, chopped (*6)
- 2 hot chili peppers, diced, optional
Place a stockpot over a medium-high flame. When the pot is hot, add the oil. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden-brown, about three minutes. Remove the garlic to a separate bowl.
Add the beef (*2), onion and salt to the stockpot and stir well. Reduce flame to medium and add the water. Simmer until the beef is tender, about 30 minutes, removing and discarding the bones about halfway through.
Add the pineapple and let the soup return to an active simmer. Season soup with fish sauce and sugar.
Ladle soup into individual bowls and serve alongside roasted garlic, fresh herbs and chopped scallions, to be added appropriate to each diner’s taste.
1 – It pains me to contradict someone who’s…survived everything Cambodia endured, but I do think peanut oil is a better choice.
2 – Oxtail isn’t always present, even at larger butcher shops. If it isn’t available, a couple beef shank cuts will do, or even beef spare ribs. Be sure to cut the meat from the bones and to coarsely cube it. Save the bones for the soup, as they add flavor and texture, but remove them from the simmer after ten or fifteen minutes. Any longer than that, and they’ll make things too oily.
3 – I substituted one tiger for the onion, though things didn’t turn out so well. Eventually, I tried two medium shallots, and they worked much better.
4 – If you don’t dissect a fresh pineapple, a medium-sized can of pineapple cubes is about the right amount.
5 – If you have it, use palm sugar. It’s healthier and is closer to what is used in the original.
6 – Thai basil was easy enough to find, though rice paddy herbs weren’t. In fact, the closest source was likely counties away, so I substituted for it fresh cilantro. I did grow rice paddy herbs a couple summers back, but they went into dishes long ago, leaving only this photo: