Nilaga: Oxtail Soup with Potatoes and Vegetables

Although it was scorching hot and humid outside, we couldn’t resist having one of our favorite soups, oxtail soup. The weather has never been a hindrance to our enjoyment of soups. Why whenever we are in Las Vegas, we must have our dose of Oxtail Soup at the California and you know how hot it gets over there!

The last time we were in Las Vegas was last summer. It had been several years since we were last there, but since my mother decided to retire and moved there, we decided to go check out her new house and also get re-acquainted with the town. My, have things changed! When we used to go there as kids, there was little for us to do aside from hanging out at Circus Circus. Nowadays though, even with six kids in tow there was plenty of things to do in Vegas. The girls were not bored for one second, and it was painful for them when it came time to leave.

Of course while we were there, we had to work in a midnight run to the California hotel just to have their oxtail soup which they don’t start serving until 11 p.m. for the night owls, the gamblers, the hung over and the plain obsessed like us. The late night service is one reason my daughters have yet to sample the oxtail soup at the California. My mom, my sisters and I don’t mind the late hour, we actually like it better because as anyone knows, it’s hard enough getting around Vegas much less downtown Vegas during the day. Late night traffic is much more manageable.

This was the last bowl I had at the California. See all the grated ginger and chopped cilantro floating about? It’s making me hungry just looking at it again.

 The way my sisters and I talk about the soup, it’s no wonder my daughters have been hankering for a taste too. So a couple of weeks ago when we chanced upon some good-looking oxtails at the grocery store, my daughter immediately requested for soup.

This time though, I didn’t put the usual aromatics that normally flavors the Hawaiian style soup served at the California. I made this one Nilaga style. Nilaga is the Pilipino term for boiled and is a general term applied to a lot of boiled soups in the Philippines. What sets it apart from the Hawaiian version is that it doesn’t use as many spices as the Hawaiian version, depending instead on the strong beef flavor that oxtails impart. It is a much lighter broth but also very good at highlighting whatever vegetables you choose to have with it instead.

Nilaga: Oxtail Soup with Potatoes and Vegetables
Recipe type: Main, Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5-6
This soup is good enough and hearty enough for a main meal but the broth is also flavorful enough for a starter soup with any meal.
  • 2-3 lbs Oxtails, cut into 1-2 inch slices
  • 4 cloves Garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1 large Onion, sliced
  • 2 inch fresh Ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 4 small Potatoes, quartered
  • 1 Bok Choy, cut into serving pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons Patis (fish sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon Szechuan Peppercorns
  • Salt, to taste
  • 10 cups Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Oil
  1. Heat up oil and quickly sear the oxtail slices. Remove them from the pot and set aside.
  2. Into the remaining oil in the pot, add the garlic, onions and ginger and stirfry for a few minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add the fish sauce and the oxtails and stir a few times.
  4. Add the water, cover and let it come to a boil. Once it been boiling for 10 minutes, lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 1.5 to 2 hours or until the oxtails are falling off the bone tender.
  5. Once the meat is tender, adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.
  6. Add the potatoes and let them cook for ten minutes.
  7. Add the vegetables, Bok Choy in this case, and let it cook only until it turns bright green and wilted but still has plenty of crispness. Don't overcook.
  8. Turn off the heat, and serve.
You can use any vegetables you want in this soup. Some suggestions: Cabbage Carrots Celery Green Peppers Green Beans Turnip Roots or any green, leafy vegetables (turnip and mustard greens work well too) You can also use other cuts of beef instead if oxtails is not your thing. I have used beef shortribs for this recipe and traditionally beef shanks is used for Nilaga. The main thing when making this soup is to use meat on the bone. All the good beefy flavor comes from the bones.


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