Ever come across oxtail on a menu and wondered what it was? Is it really the tail of an ox? Is it edible? And even if it is, could you enjoy it without feeling nauseated about nibbling on an animal's tail? The answer: a delicious yes.
Oxtail is a gelatin-rich meat, pulled from exactly that rear end of the ox's body that the name suggests. It is typically chopped up into segments that have the bone running through the centre and red meat marbled with slivers of fat around the edges. The best cooking techniques are ones that slow-cook the meat, urging it to release its beefy juices and yield into tender, gelatinous flesh. Oxtail wags its way through stews and soups across the world, from Filipino kare-kare and Guyanese pepper pot to Roman Coda alla Vaccinara and Vietnamese pho duoi bo (beef noodle soup with oxtail). My first and most memorable experience with this ingredient was over a lunch in Dubai that featured Jamaican oxtail curry. The oxtail had been pressure-cooked with onions until the fatty tail finally emerged from the kitchen as chocolate brown tendrils of meat. Heartbreakingly, this Jamaican restaurant that opened my eyes to oxtail shut down just months after my revelation.
Thankfully, the Indonesian restaurants in town came to my rescue. Sari Nusa in Satwa (04 345 3390) serves a hearty Sop Buntut (oxtail soup) with meaty chunks of tail and specks of diced carrots and spring onions swishing about a clear beefy broth. When flu season hits and I find myself drowning in a swamp of congestion, this is precisely the sort of soul-stroking soup that I long to have by my side. Dapoer Kita in Karama (04 379 5501) is another homely Indonesian eatery that not only serves oxtail soup but also grilled, fried and chilli versions that are high up on my foodie hit list.
Arva Ahmed blogs about hidden food gems in Old Dubai at www.ILiveinaFryingPan.com