Thai-Muslim Beef Soup (ซุปเนื้ออิสลาม)


It doesn’t happen very often that you get to enjoy regional Thai dishes in a Thai restaurant outside Thailand. Rarer still? Dishes that are tied not so much to a geographical location but a sub-group in the Thai society. Thai-Muslim oxtail soup is one of those dishes you don’t normally get at a Thai restaurant overseas. All the more reason to make it yourself.

This soup, as served in Thailand, is redolent of dried spices associated with Middle Eastern or South Asian cuisine while boasting the flavors that you love about Thai cuisine. Have a bowl of this with warm jasmine rice and find out for yourself why it’s one of the most loved Thai-Muslim dishes.

Skin-on oxtails are the best and the most commonly-used meat for this soup. In fact, that’s the way it’s done at my favorite Muslim restaurant in Bangkok (you can read about it in my post on Good Eats in Historic Bang Rak) and most of the other good ones serving the same dish.

thai beef
Those of you living in the US and Europe probably can’t find oxtails easily, and if you do, they’re most likely skinless. No worries. You can use skinless oxtails. You can even do what I do here which is to replace the oxtails with bone-in beef shanks. Both cuts require long, slow cooking and are appropriate for this application.

thai soup
One component of the dish that I consider essential to this soup is fried shallots. You don’t need much for a little goes a long way in perfuming the whole pot. Fried shallots may seem like an optional garnish. But leave them out and this soup ceases to be what it is — at least to me.

What is optional, at least as far as I’m concerned, is potatoes. Some people add them to the soup. I don’t. Neither do Muslim Restaurant and a couple of other good places which I can think of off the top of my head. If you like tender chunks of potatoes in this, feel free to include them. I find that potato pieces cause the broth to be overly starchy and cloudy which is not necessarily a bad thing. But considering that you’re supposed to eat the soup with rice anyway, extra starch seems superfluous. But it’s up to you.

Thai-Muslim Beef Soup (ซุปเนื้ออิสลาม)
Serve 4
Printable Version

thai beef soup
3 lbs bone-in beef shanks (tied with kitchen strings to retain the shape) or 3.5 lbs pieces of oxtail
Salt, divided
4-5 green cardamom pods
2 sticks cinnamon
2 teaspoons white or black peppercorns
One large yellow onion, sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch pieces
4 plum tomatoes, quartered
2-3 small waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced very thinly
1/4 cup plain vegetable oil
5-6 bird’s eye chilies (more or fewer to taste), crushed
Lime juice, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (lightly-packed) cilantro leaves

  • Place the beef pieces in a large pot and cover them with plain water. Add to the pot the cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and 1.5 tablespoons of salt. Bring the pot to a boil; reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer and cover the pot.
  • Let the beef stew for about an hour. Check on it periodically and replenish the water as needed. The water level should be about 1.5-2 inches above the beef at all times. Adjust the heat every time more water is added to the pot to maintain the simmer.
  • After one hour, add the onions, tomatoes, and potatoes (if applicable) to the pot. Let the beef stew on low heat for another 2 hours (more or less depending on the sizes of the beef pieces).
  • In the meantime, make fried shallots by heating the vegetable oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. When the oil gets slightly warm (not smoking hot), add the shallots to it and stir constantly. You want to fry the shallots over moderate heat; this allows them to dry and crisp up without burning. Once the shallots are crispy and golden brown, drain off the oil and let them cool on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
  • Once the beef is fall-off-the-bone tender, take the pot off the heat. Taste to see if more salt is needed. Add lime juice to taste. Stir in the crushed chilies.
  • Serve, garnished with chopped green onions and cilantro leaves, with rice.

14 Responses to Thai-Muslim Beef Soup (ซุปเนื้ออิสลาม)

  1. Dorrie March 12, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    Leela, your post came just in time for my last day in Bangkok. I went to the Muslim Restaurant near Silom, but this soup wasn’t available today. Well, just one more reason to cook it at home! Thanks a lot for the recipe.

    BTW, the restaurant is lovely, and the food is great. I went there just by myself for “breakfast” and hat a beef soup, the mutton liver masala (which came with ajad)), and a beef curry. Now I am full for the next couple of days :=(

  2. Michael March 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    It’s interesting that your post would have Muslim ox-tail included. Just yesterday I was watching a Muslim youtube cooking show where I saw an elderly Muslim lady frying these same pieces of meat and, as I don’t speak the language, I couldn’t tell the name of the dish she was making. Now I know. My experience in ox-tail has been in Vietnamese Bun Bo Hue. It has the most wonderful and rich. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

  3. Bville Yellow Dog March 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Sounds great.
    It is now on my Too-Do list.
    I know I can get oxtail – and I bet if I order it I could get it with the skin on.
    It’s a local butcher who services the local cattle ranchers.
    Cattle in – packages out.

  4. Namitha March 12, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Quite intriguing ! Fried shallots will definitely give a new dimension to a soup. Love your blog,a lot 🙂

  5. jen March 12, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Love it. I usually just do a Tom Yum style of oxtail soup but will try this next time!

  6. Angry Asian March 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Leela, when i went to high school in bangkok i volunteered for a week at a blind school. the boy i was paired with was muslim. i was SO SURPRISED that there was a muslim population in thailand, he taught me a lot. however, it never occurred to me that there would actually be thai-muslim cuisine. moral of the story: i’m a terrible student and now i must make this soup to make up for it.

  7. Anna March 16, 2012 at 2:15 am #

    Dear Leela,

    Where do the peppercorns come in? They’re listed among the ingredients but not in the recipe itself. Thanks!

  8. Admin March 16, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    Anna – Good catch. Fixed now. Thanks so much.

  9. Mairi April 7, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    What an incredible soup! I have just come across your blog & I love it 🙂

  10. Krista April 21, 2012 at 4:08 am #

    Delicious! I made it today, though I added some cilantro root to the soup as it was cooking. I haven’t had the oxtail soup at the restaurant you mention. I would always go to Roti Mataba on Thanon Phra Athit. Now I just have to learn how to make roti…

  11. Whitney July 20, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Are there supposed to be tomatoes in this?

    Thank you!

    • Leela August 16, 2014 at 9:47 am #

      Whitney – Yes.

  12. Cynthia January 27, 2016 at 1:20 am #

    I just went to a restaurant in Bangkok, ate this soup and the next day I went back! So Delicious!! The restaurant is The Terrace located at the 4th floor of Terminal 21 (it has a skybridge straight from Asok BTS station. Best Ox-tail soup in Bangkok!! 😊❤️

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