Any mention of oxtails in Filipino food probably involves kare-kare, a rich peanut-based vegetable stew. Beef shanks, tripe, pork hocks, and other tough parts tenderized through long simmering may also be added, but it has to have the oxtails. Leaving the bony segments out is unacceptable. Hindi maaari (no frickin’ way).
I didn’t have the other dozen ingredients for kare-kare so I made adobo for dinner instead. Adobo is an indigenous Filipino method of simmering in vinegar, akin to pickling. Food spoils rather quickly in oppressive tropical heat so this is our way of dealing with that little dilemma. We take the vinegared stuff seriously regardless of the weather forecast, though.
The sourness also supposedly stimulates your appetite during hot and humid weather, not that I’ve had any such craving-related problems lately.
The following recipe makes a light broth meant to be served like a soup, in contrast to versions enriched with coconut milk. Before serving, grill or broil the oxtails to crisp up the fatty bits. Silky and tender is great, but that additional hint of smoke can only make it better.
Oxtail Adobo Recipe
Adobong Buntot ng Baka
makes 4 servings
Meet datu, my spear-wielding ancestor. He likes loincloths and long walks on the beach.
2 to 3 pounds oxtail, segmented
1/2 cup vinegar, preferably cane or cider vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 to 3 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large pot, place the oxtails, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic cloves, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Pour in enough water to cover the oxtails.
- Bring to a boil and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for about 2 hours, replenishing the water as necessary to keep the oxtails fully immersed.
- Tilt the pot and skim the rendered fat, if desired.
- Prepare a grill or preheat a broiler. Remove the oxtails from the broth. Grill or broil the oxtails until well-browned and slightly crisped. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with warm rice and a small bowl of the adobo broth.
Oxtail adobo, pre-incineration. You go eww, I go ooh.