Sinigang na buntot ng baka, or oxtail sinigang, is not as common as its pork tail sibling. It takes much longer to tenderize oxtail but waiting is worth it.
There is a world of difference though in the texture of the cooked dish. Oxtail sinigang is richer; the broth is thicker and sticky.
There are several ways to tenderize the oxtail. You can do it the traditional way by simmering it on the stovetop (or in a claypot over charcoal if you’re feeling rustic). It will take several hours but slow cooking really is best. The modern equivalent is the slow cooker.
But if you don’t have much time to spare, there’s always the pressure cooker. In my case, oxtail always went into the pressure cooker until a couple of years ago when I finally got the hand of using a slow cooker. Apparently, it’s not as idiot-proof as many like to think.
If you pressure cook your oxtail but want to achieve the texture of slow cooked meat, cool the cooked oxtail then let it sit in the fridge, in its broth, overnight. There’s something about allowing the broth to congeal that makes it richer the next day.
Once your oxtail is tender, just proceed cooking your sinigang the usual way.
The following recipe uses a slow cooker. It’s been my best friend this summer because it can cook lots of meat at night while everyone’s asleep and no one has to be bothered by the heat in the kitchen. Come to think of it, the slow cooker emits much less heat than a regular pot on the stovetop.
For slow cooking the oxtail
- 1 kilo oxtail cut into 2-inch rings
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 shallots halved
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon salt
To complete the dish
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 shallots peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 to 3 tomatoes diced
- 1 finger chili slit vertically
- 2 to 4 cups bone broth
- patis (fish sauce) to taste
- 12 pieces okra (tips cut off) diced
- 1 to 2 medium taro (gabi) peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 bunch yard-long beans (sitaw) (tips cut off), cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 bunch water spinach (kangkong) cut into 2-inch lengths, stalks and leafy portion separated
- 2 eggplants cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 radish peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 cups tamarind juice
Slow cook the oxtail
- Place the oxtail in a pot. Cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse well.
- Place the rinsed oxtail in the slow cooker. Pour in enough water to cover. Add the garlic, shallots, peppercorns and salt.
- Slow cook the oxtail for eight hours on high or up to 12 hours on low.
Cook the sinigang
- Strain the cooked oxtail. Reserve the broth.
- Heat the cooking oil in a pot. Saute the garlic, shallots, tomatoes and finger chili.
- Pour in the oxtail broth. If there isn't enough, pour in all of the bone broth as well. For four people, you will need six to eight cups for broth for generous servings. Season with fish sauce. Bring to the boil.
- Start dropping in the vegetables beginning with what takes longest to cook. I drop in the okra and taro first. The sitaw follows after five minutes. Then, after another five minutes, the kangkong stalks and eggplants. After another five minutes, the kangkong leaves and radish go in.
- Add the strained oxtail to the vegetables in the pot.
- Stir in the tamarind juice. Taste and add more fish sauce, if needed.
- Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for another five minutes.
- Taste the sinigang broth one last time and add more fish sauce, if needed, before serving.