Improvised umami-mazing oxtail and ramen soup, now that we’re cooking with gas

Oxtail ramen soupA period of unfortunately-timed icy weather last week saw Gourmandistan once again facing an empty heating fuel tank, forcing us to lower our thermostat to a fairly chilly 50° F, to take short showers and to avoid using our gas cooktop. (Steve has already set reminders to check the tank level more frequently next winter.) Thanks to a pan of lasagna made before we knew the house was running on fumes, we did not suffer too greatly. An “emergency” request to our propane supplier somehow took over two days to answer, but Gourmandistan finally has heat, a flame-ready cooktop and hopefully enough fuel to last until spring. For some reason (possibly that, though no longer icy, our weather has been damp and grim), one of our first thoughts was to make more soup.

We bought oxtail on a quick trip to a winter farmers’ market, and discussed stews, cannelloni or crêpes stuffings and other ideas on the way back before settling on Michelle’s direction of “something Asian, possibly with fermented black beans.” We settled on a stew recipe from Patricia Yeo, but when we returned home we realized the tail was tiny, meaning stews or stuffed things would not be an option unless we wanted a lot of trouble for a lilliputian result. As we had also bought some beef bones for stock, Michelle decided she would incorporate Yeo’s seasonings with some other ideas and put together a soup. Fermented black beans, ginger, garlic and orange zest were finely minced, then softened with a bit of onion on top of the crusty bits left from browning the oxtail. Miso and red wine along with a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms were added. Letting these ingredients cook together with the tail made for a very hearty, umami-laden broth, which became even more decadent when bits of shredded oxtail and sliced shiitakes were added back to it.

Oxtail ramen soup

Garnished with scallions and spinach, the soup was satisfyingly meaty and not really all that Asian. But in our well-heated kitchen, with some delicious scallion pancakes, Steve slurped up a big bowl and applauded Michelle’s improvisation. Hopefully next year we won’t run out of fuel. However, we will very likely make this soup again.


(inspired by Patricia Yeo’s Everyday Asian)

  • 2 lbs. oxtails
  • 1 TB neutral oil
  • 1/2 a large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 TB fermented black beans, soaked and drained
  • 1-1/2 TB fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1/4 c. red wine
  • 1/4 c. miso
  • 6 or 7 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)
  • generous 1/4 c. dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 6 oz. dried ramen
  • 5 oz. baby spinach, stems removed
  • 3 or 4 scallions, chopped

Brown oxtails in oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Remove to a plate.

Add onions to fat in pot and cook, stirring occasionally.

While onions are cooking, chop black beans, ginger, garlic and orange zest. When onions are colored, add bean mix to the pot. Sauté until garlic is cooked.

Add wine and miso to pot, stirring. When incorporated, add stock, mushrooms and reserved oxtails. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 or 4 hours until meat is fully cooked.

With a slotted spoon, remove oxtails and mushrooms and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and shred. Thinly slice the mushrooms.

Strain broth. Discard solids. Return broth to pan, let settle a bit, then spoon off fat from top.

Return meat and sliced mushrooms to the broth. Add soy sauce. Reheat. Taste for seasoning (it probably will not need salt, however).

Cook ramen according to package directions. Distribute cooked noodles between 4 serving bowls.

Add spinach to soup and cook just until wilted. Pour soup over noodles. Sprinkle with scallions.


  1. Sounds like a rough winter – what am I complaining about compared with that? Thank god you can cook THAT good. Oxtail and ramen sounds so very good to my ears!

  2. I feel your pain, we’ve done the same thing and run out of fuel oil in the middle of winter and it’s no joke. The soup looks fabulous, love those flavours, and the pancake is a great finishing touch. Lx

  3. wow!! Looks so delicious! Nice combination! I will try this! So far I just cook ordinary oxtail soup 🙂

    Please visit and follow my blog (www.lazymomcooking.wordpress.com) or my Instagram (lazymom_cooking) for some recipe ideas 🙂

  4. Where I live, in the “country,” we lose electricity often. And when we do, we often lose the electricity at the well house as well, so no water. Not fun. Sadly, my husband is not the “farmer” type. He doesn’t know how to work on cars, let alone hold a hammer. So we’ve had a generator for years. Fortunately a new nearby neighbor coaxed him into using it recently and it was surprisingly simple. Very noisy, but it worked. And we got to save our groceries, which is always nice, plus not freeze in the house. All of these modern conveniences have us so spoiled!

    • Oh, Mimi, it’s the same here. We went for the brains, right? And that’s not a bad thing! And our generator scares me to death, but we do use it when it’s necessary. (Still, it doesn’t help when the propane is gone.)

      • Brains and a great sense of humor. Of course, I could figure out how to do all of these things, but I already sort of wear the pants in the family, and I watched my mother be the “man” so I limit myself to everything inside the house. Last year I asked my husband to replace two of the air filters, and he didn’t know where they were in the house. I freaking run a boarding house for one guy!!!

  5. My kind of food. The pancake/bread thing looks so inviting too. Can’t imagine what you do without heating – the panic that ensues here in mid summer if the a/c breaks down.

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