Oxtail Barley Soup Recipe

Soup is on the menu again, this time inspired by a package of oxtails I found at the local Asian market. My mother made oxtail soup with carrots and cabbage, there was something magical about its taste. I haven’t cooked with them in a long time and felt I was due a nice dose of comfort food.

Instead of cabbage I figured I would replace it with chunks of kohlrabi, a root vegetable from the same family. I also found it at the market and it intrigued me for some reason. I’m a fan of root veggies and this is one I had never used.

The kohlrabi looks somewhat odd, yet beautiful. I like the pale green color of the smooth skin. I’ll admit that I had to look it up and learn more about it once I got it home. I knew absolutely nothing about it when I bought it.

I experimented by using a few seasonings that I’ve grown to love over the past year: bay leaves, caraway seeds, and star anise. Aside from bay leaves, we never used caraway or star anise when we cooked. Maybe this is why the flavors are so meaningful to me now.

Oxtail soup with kohlrabi, carrots and barley

2 lb.s oxtails, trimmed of excess fat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 star anise
1 tsp. caraway seed
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 cup barley
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 kohlrabi, cubed
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Dredge oxtails in flour to coat, then add to pot. Brown oxtails on all sides and remove. Add onions and garlic to pot along with 1 tablespoon of the flour. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the oxtails, bay leaf, star anise, and caraway seed. Cover with about 8 cups water and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours, until meat begins to pull away from the bones.

Remove oxtails and set aside to cool. The next step is extremely important — you must skim the fat from the top of the broth. I used a very convenient fat separator. I bought this to use at Thanksgiving when I make gravy one time during the entire year. As you can see, a high amount of fat cooks out of the oxtails. The fat separator also removes the chunks of onion and the bay leaf/star anise leaving a clear broth behind. I discarded the chunky bits.

If using a fat separator, return broth to pot. Remove meat from the oxtail bones and add the meat to the pot (discard bones). Add barley and soy sauce, bring to a simmer. Cook covered for about 45 minutes. Add carrots and kohlrabi, cook for an additional 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Before serving, stir in the cilantro. As always, season with salt and pepper to taste.

The broth is rich and is balanced nicely by the sweetness of the vegetables and bright flavor of the cilantro. The barley gives it substance and makes it capable of being a ‘meal’. It took an afternoon to make, but it was worth it. I curled up in a chair by the TV and watched the news while I sipped on my soup. Now I’ve got to go clean the kitchen …. ugh.

You might also like these posts:
Pea soup nourishes my soul
Hearty vegetarian barley and lentil soup
Rustic & comforting bean soup

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  1. Wait!! You didn’t say how kohlrabi compared to cabbage! :) I can say with confidence that I have never seen one before, and no markets here carry it though :(
    In any case, that soup looks good, especially now the weather’s a little bleary.
    I awarded you on my blog :)

  2. Soup looks great! I know how you feel about the kichen clean-up. Love making the food wish there were fairies to come in and clean up:)

  3. Manggy: Haha! Although cabbage and kohlrabi are in the same family, kohlrabi has a more mild turnip taste. I think it worked perfectly in the soup. Rutabagas or any type or turnip would work well too.

    Award? What? … lemme go check it out …

    Half Baked: Thanks! Some days I wish I had a kitchen staff … *sigh* … I bet Oprah doesn’t have to wash her own dishes.

  4. I am so impressed by this soup! I’ve never tasted oxtail soup before, but I’ve been intrigued by it ever since reading a recipe for oxtail soup as a child… I’m very curious – what do oxtails taste like?
    Your soup is absolutely beautiful… Amazing photos…

  5. Astra: I’ll be honest that oxtails aren’t pretty — they are chopped segments of a cow’s tail. The center portion is hard cartilage surrounded by meat and fat (as you can see from the broth picture, there’s alot of fat to drain off).

    When cooked for a couple hours, the meat becomes very tender and has a sweet, flavorful beefy taste. The stock is rich and slightly creamy due to the amount of collagen released from the oxtails. If you put this soup in the fridge, it will turn into jello :-)

    Oxtails are a common ingredient where I grew up — you didn’t waste any part of the animal. It’s sometimes hard to find in our stores out here (California) since it’s not considered a very high-end cut of meat.

    I hope you give it try!

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