I first stumbled onto this recipe back in my temping days, during college. This was quite some time ago, back when investment banking was still lucrative and they could afford to hire people like me to format their powerpoint presentations and documents. I usually worked from 4pm to 2am or noon to midnight and since I never remembered to bring food and also was too cheap at the time to order in, I was usually manically starved by the end of my shift. There was usually a lot of downtime too, so I would browse recipe sites and email recipes to myself. This was also when I was first starting to cook for myself and everything seemed incredibly possible. Since then I've made this soup many times, always to soul warming results. A weakness for noodle soups dovetailed nicely with my second weakness for chili garlic sauce. Last weekend I made a batch and found that my current soup pot wasn't quite enough to accomodate the volume of water. I ended up overcompensating a bit a the end so the flavor of the soup wasn't as deep as usual, but it was still thoroughly enjoyed.
5 tbs peanut oil (I eyeball this and use vegetable oil)
3 1/4 pound oxtails, dry
2 large onions, chopped roughly
1-2 carrots, chopped
3 stalks lemongrass, chopped (I've actually never found this so never added it, I should try it sometime)
2/3 cup slice ginger
8 garlic cloves, chopped
7 whole star anise (extremely necessary! do not omit!)
1 tbs black peppercorns
12 cups water
7 cups beef broth (I use about 4 cans)
3 tbs fish sauce
Sprinkle salt and pepper on oxtails and brown in oil in batches. Transfer oxtails to a bowl and add onions and next 6 ingredients to pot and stir about until vegetables are tender. Return the oxtails and add liquids and fish sauce. Simmer until oxtails are tender, about 3-4 hours.
When cooled, remove the oxtails and strain the broth. Keep in fridge overnight and skim the fat off the top the next day. To serve, I use Japanese somen noodles, bean sprouts, and whatever chopped herbs I have on hand. Usually cilantro, scallions and mint. Squeeze lime wedges generously over each bowl; chili garlic sauce is a must for me.