"One of my favourite hidden gems in Bangkok has to be Aeesa Rot Dee, located at 178 Tanee Road near the busy Khao San Road. It’s tucked away down the darkest, narrowest laneway entrance (you could easily walk past it) but once inside, you can’t help but notice the gorgeous smells and all the cooking activity. I reckon they serve the best Thai Muslim cuisine in Bangkok. The first aroma that hits you on arrival comes from a big pot of oxtail soup, simmering away at the front. It’s a Thai dish but there is a whole pile of Indian and Middle Eastern spices like cinnamon and cardamom going on in that broth, so for an uncertain moment you’re not exactly sure what country you are in. There are also a few unexpected ingredients like potatoes and tomatoes alongside the more usual Thai ones, such as sawtooth coriander, fried shallots and fish sauce. I found researching Thai Muslim cuisine to be fascinating. Thailand’s proximity to Indonesia and Malaysia has given rise to inevitable culinary influences from those places but, maybe not so obviously, there are also Persian links too, as Persians settled in Phuket and that community had an influence on southern Thai cuisine. Just try this soup in Bangkok and if you’re not as intrigued by all of this culinary history as I am, you’ll at least love the soothing, home-style flavour of it – not to mention those sticky, soft bits of oxtail." Luke Nguyen, Luke Nguyen's Street Food Asia
It’s a Thai dish but there is a whole pile of Indian and Middle Eastern spices going on in the broth.
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1.5 kg oxtail, cut into 4–5 cm-thick pieces
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 3 red Asian shallots, peeled
- 4 tomatoes, quartered
- 3 waxy potatoes, peeled, cut and quartered
- 1 carrot, sliced into 2 cm-thick pieces
- 4 bird’s eye chillies, pounded in a mortar and pestle
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) fish sauce
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 spring onions (scallions), sliced on an angle
- 4 sawtooth coriander leaves, sliced
- steamed jasmine rice, to serve
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 cassia bark sticks
- 2 tsp white peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 2 green cardamom pods, bruised
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Increase the heat to high then cook the oxtail pieces until browned on all sides. Add enough water to cover the oxtail and bring to the boil. Skim off all impurities that rise to the top and discard.
Tie all the spice bag ingredients in a small piece of muslin or cheesecloth, and add to the pan with the salt. Reduce heat to low, then cover and cook for 1 hour, adding more water to the pan during cooking, if necessary, to keep the oxtail covered.
After an hour, add the shallots, tomato, potato and carrot. Add more water to cover all the ingredients, then cover and continue to simmer gently for another 2 hours or until the oxtail is fall-off-the-bone tender.
Stir in the pounded chilli, then gradually add the fish sauce and soy sauce, tasting as you go, and add lime juice to taste. The flavours should be a nice balance of salty, sweet and sour. Transfer to a bowl, garnish with spring onion and sawtooth coriander and serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Lucy Tweed. Food preparation by Tammi Kwok.