Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slow Cooker Chinese Oxtail Stew (燜牛尾, Man1 Ngau4 Mei5)

This recipe was updated on 12 Sep 2014. Some instructions and ingredient quantities were changed, and metric measurements added.
This is a great dish for a Fall or Winter meal. One of my favorite ingredients, oxtails, were on sale and it’s hard to resist buying a favorite ingredient on sale. Oxtails are mainly bone, but are full of gelatin and together with tapioca starch, serves to thicken the sauce. The oxtails can either be browned in a wok or Dutch oven the night before.
Star anise and cassia bark are the main spices used in this dish. Cassia bark has a cinnamon-like flavor, but does taste slightly different than “normal” cinnamon, and is sold as dried cinnamon sticks at Asian markets. You can substitute regular cinnamon for cassia bark if you cannot find it. All the soak-out cooker ingredients (except for the ginger and garlic) can be found in the preserved/dried section of your local Asian market.
Tapioca starch is used to thicken the liquid and holds up well in a slow cooker. I originally got this information from America’s Test Kitchen and they use Minute Tapioca made by Kraft. I’ve used both the Minute Tapioca and plain tapioca starch to thicken liquids in a slow cooker, and both work equally as well. You can find Minute Tapioca in any grocery store and tapioca starch at your local Asian supermarket. The tapioca starch is much more inexpensive than the Minute Tapioca. Corn starch and other thickeners will break down and not thicken during the long cooking times in a slow cooker.
4 lb.
2 kg.
Beef Oxtails (牛尾, ngau4 mei5)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
¼ cup
60 ml.
Soy sauce (豉油, si6 jau4)
1 cup
250 ml.
Shaoxing rice wine (紹興酒, siu6 hing1 zau2) or dry sherry
Water or chicken stock to cover the oxtails in the slow cooker
3 Tbs.
45 ml.
Tapioca Starch (木薯澱粉, muk6 syu4 din6 fan2)
1 lb.
500 g.
Carrots (紅蘿蔔, hung4 lo4 baak6), cut on the diagonal to ¾-inch (2 cm.) pieces
1 lb.
500 g.
Whole button mushrooms (蘑菇, mo4 gu1)
Soak-Out Cooker Ingredients
2 cloves
2 cloves
Garlic (, syun3), lightly crushed
2 slices
2 slices
Ginger (, goeng1), lightly crushed
Dried date (蜜棗, mat6 zou2) - optional
Dried tangerine peel (陳皮, can4 pei4)
2 whole
2 whole
Star anise (八角, baat3 gok3)
1 stick
1 stick
Cassia bark (桂皮, gwai3 pei4) or cinnamon sticks
¾ oz.
20 g.
Rock sugar (冰糖, bing1 tong4) – 1 piece
14 in.
35.5 cm.
Wok or pan
3.5 in.
9 cm.
Soak-out cooker to hold the spices in the slow cooker
6.5 qt.
6 L.
Slow cooker (crock pot) to cook the stew
Fat separator
Preparation Instructions
    Copyright © 2011 Douglas R. Wong. All rights reserved.
    Soak-Out Cooker
    Lightly crush the garlic and ginger before putting them into the soak-out cooker with the dried date (optional), dried tangerine peel, star anise, cassia bark or cinnamon sticks, and rock sugar. Close and lock the soak out cooker, and place it into the slow cooker. If there isn’t sufficient space in the soak out cooker for all the ingredients, the rock sugar may be put directly into the slow cooker.
  2. Remove any excess fat from the surface of the beef oxtails, and then add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Wash and cut the carrots on the diagonal to ¾-inch (2 cm.) pieces, and clean the mushrooms.
Cooking Instructions
  1. Brown the oxtails in a wok or Dutch oven. Deglaze the pan with Shaoxing rice wine and add the liquid together with the oxtails into the slow cooker. Try to arrange the oxtails in one layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Browning the oxtails can be done the night before.
  2. Add the soy sauce and enough Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, and water or chicken stock to just cover the oxtails in the slow cooker. Add the tapioca starch to the slow cooker and mix into the liquid.
  3. Brown the carrots and mushrooms individually before adding each ingredient to the slow cooker in that order. Deglaze the pan with Shaoxing rice wine after browning the last vegetable (mushrooms), adding the liquid to the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for up to 8 hours.
  4. After cooking is complete, the contents of the slow cooker should be transferred to the serving plate. The bones can be removed from the oxtails before serving, if desired. Remove the soak out cooker and discard the contents. Defat the liquid in a fat separator and pour the liquid over the oxtails in the serving plate. Serve with steamed rice.


  1. Excellent flavors, instructions, and a first rate recipe. I can see a lot of hard work went into this site and it is appreciated. Thank you!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


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