Where to Roam Whenever You’re Hungry as an Ox

Columns Ono, You Know

March 20, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Being born in the Year of the Ox might explain why I love my oxtail soup so much. Now, some of you may be thinking that oxtail is one of those things you would find Andrew Zimmern eating on the Food Network’s hit show Bizarre Foods. Not so! While it may seem a bit strange to some, oxtail soup is a tried-and-true staple here in the Islands.

This week, hungry for this local-kind grind with its light soup base and mouth-watering oxtail (usually a tail of a steer, cut into segments), I was on a mission to sink my teeth into this unique cut of meat, well-marbled with fat for extra flavor. Yum!

And although oxtails may be hard to find at your neighborhood market, there’s quite a few “Ono, You Know” restaurants around town that serve it up home cooked, just the way Mom used to make it!

Pho Kitchen

  • The author can't wait to dive into Pho Kitchen's delectable oxtail soup ($12.95).
  • Pho Kitchen owners Alex Chong and Sandy Lin offer up a bountiful array of soups, pho and more.
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I followed my nose, which led me to my first location — Pho Kitchen at Market City Shopping Center.

This establishment, which specializes in Vietnamese cuisine, knows a thing or two about pho, especially when it comes to the soupy broth that everyone seems to love. Therefore, it was no surprise to find out that its Oxtail Soup ($12.95) also is a winner. Owners Sandy Lin and Alex Chong make some of the best soup I’ve ever laid my taste buds on. Better yet, oxtail soup is quite beneficial to your health.

“It supplies your body with energy,” says Chong says. “It benefits the blood circulation, and strengthens your bones and muscles. It’s also good for your kidneys.”

There is no secret to Pho Kitchen’s oxtail soup, and Chong explains that star anise and chenpi (dried tangerine peel) are the magic to bringing out the flavors of the soup.

“To make the broth light and clear, we also skim off all the excess fat from the oxtail,” he explains. “Onions, green onions, raw peanuts, mushrooms and carrots are added to the broth as well.”

The soup is utterly delicious and tops of my list of comfort foods. Here’s a hint, oxtail-soup lovers: When fighting off the early signs of a cold, I like to sip up the tasty broth, which is garnished with green onions, Chinese parsley and a hint of grated ginger and soy sauce. Honestly, it seems to be a cure all for cold symptoms.

Pho Kitchen
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd.
(808) 735-8488
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Tanaka Saimin

  • Tanaka Saimin serves close to 50 bowls of Oxtail Soup ($12.95) per night.
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My journey continued, leading me to Tanaka Saimin on North Nimitz Highway. And while this restaurant, owned by Joan and Paul Watanabe, is acclaimed for its ono saimin and other local favorites, it’s the Oxtail Soup in particular ($12.95) that had me drooling!

Chef Sing Lee is the man behind the magic at Tanaka Saimin, and with 45 years experience under his belt, I knew I was in for a meal of a lifetime when he presented me with their famous ox tail soup.

According to Lee, this piping hot dish is cooked for almost two-and-a-half hours, resulting in remarkably tender meat that falls right off the bone.

With the first sip of the savory broth, it was quite evident that this was something special. Seasoned with a few secret ingredients, the soup is extravagant, filled to the rim with shiitake mushrooms, peanuts, mustard cabbage and long rice, then beautifully garnished with a sprinkle of Chinese parsley.

“This soup is a customer favorite,” says Lee, noting that they sell close to 50 bowls of this soup per evening.

And that’s not hard to believe, as on any given night here at Tanaka Saimin you’ll find locals slurping up every last drop of ox tail soup and devouring every last morsel of meat off the bone.

Open daily (Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.), I’m entirely reassured that all my needs will be met when that irresistible urge for ox tail soup hits me hard in the stomach. It really doesn’t get any better than this at Tanaka Saimin.

Tanaka Saimin
888 N. Nimitz Hwy. Unit #103
(808) 524-2020
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Zippy’s Restaurants

  • The Oxtail Soup ($11.25) at Zippy's Restaurants is made straight from a Zippy's personal recipe.
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No oxtail soup expedition would be complete without the mention of Zippy’s Restaurants. As one of my ideal choices for everything local, it’s no surprise that Zippy’s renowned Oxtail Soup is incomparable.

Priced at $11.25 (at both restaurant and fast food counter), this delectable dish has been a customer favorite for more than 30 years and it continues to be a best-seller today.

“Due to popular demand, several years ago we started selling oxtail soup at our fast food counter,” says Zippy’s marketing manager Jeanine Mamiya Kalahiki.

“We have been known through the years for using a better-trimmed oxtail.”

And with that, who can resist the tasty broth made straight from a Zippy’s personal recipe? Imagine the freshest shiitake mushrooms and boiling peanuts floating in a broth immersed with the wholesome flavor of scrumptious oxtail, perfectly topped with choy sum and Chinese parsley for a pop of color and local flair.

I personally adore the fact this dish also is served with rice, as it makes for a more substantial meal when I’m yearning for that little something extra. And to kick it up a notch, why not ask for some grated ginger? Zippy’s staff will be more than happy to serve you.

Zippy’s Restaurants
806 Kamehameha Hwy. (and other various locations)
(808) 453-3715
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