Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

Caramelised red braised kangaroo tail with balsamic

O Tama Carey is the owner of Lankan Filling Station. Her first cookbook is Lanka Food. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photographed remotely by Earl Carter

Winter’s end is near but there is still time for us to talk about braised meats. Slow cooking has the advantage of being easy: combine a pile of ingredients, add some heat and you’re done. Put a pot in the oven in the morning and, with no fuss, dinner will be ready by evening. Your home will also be warm and filled with mouth-watering aromas.

One of my favourite versions is Chinese red braise. I love the balance of flavours – woody, citrusy and sweet – which combine to create a heady, almost overpowering scent. I believe red braise has magical powers. You can make a large batch, keep reusing it with any number of meats and cuts, and it will get better over time. Simply strain it, freeze it and then next time freshen it up with any of the spices or fresh ingredients that it’s lacking.

Red braise is laden with soy, sweetened with rock sugar and flavoured with cassia (which gives a woody earthiness), star anise (for sweet licorice notes) and orange or mandarin peel (for citrus brightness to help balance the salty soy and sweetness). In this recipe I have drifted from tradition and added fennel seeds for extra anise, cloves for depth, and coriander seeds because I like them. And then I throw caution to the wind and season the dish with balsamic. Even though it doesn’t make sense in terms of this being an Asian dish, it does in terms of flavour. Red braise can be overwhelmingly sweet and, if you want to make it into a sticky caramel sauce at the end, you need the acid. The dark notes of balsamic match the braise and are a delicious combination, while the orange adds a fresh acidic flavour.

Into this mishmash of cuisines, let’s add kangaroo, our national emblem. It makes sense that we should all be eating more kangaroo, but this is easier said than done as it’s not the most convenient meat to source. Supermarkets do sell it sporadically, but if you want to find a certain cut, such as tail, then you need to go hunting (not literally). The other obstacles are that people often feel funny about eating something so cute and it’s also not the most straightforward meat to cook. It is super lean, can sometimes have quite a strong flavour and it needs to be treated nicely.

I have had success serving it as a tartare (this works wonderfully with rump) and there is also a very good kangaroo jerky recipe floating around our house. 

The tail is my favourite cut. It’s well suited to braising as the meat is gelatinous and soft and falls from the bone with the flavours of the braise embedded. The sauce is sticky and rich, and the toasted spices add bite and extra bursts of flavour. This dish is by no means subtle and needs to be served with accompaniments for relief. You can go the Chinese route and serve it with steamed rice and greens or embrace the cultural clash and make a radicchio salad and some soft polenta. Either way, it’s a warming winter treat.


Serves 2-4

Time: 2.5 hours preparation + cooking (can be broken into stages)

  • 300ml Shaoxing wine
  • 200ml light soy
  • 150ml dark soy
  • 100g rock sugar
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 piece cassia bark
  • 3 x 0.5cm slices of ginger, skin on
  • 4-5 medium shallots, cut into quarters
  • 3 large strips of orange peel


  • 1kg kangaroo tail, cut into 8 pieces


  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 40g brown sugar
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 25ml balsamic vinegar
  • black pepper
  • lemon cheeks to serve
  1. Place the red braising ingredients (from the wine to the peel) in a large saucepan with two litres of water. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer. Let this gently bubble for about 10 minutes to allow the sugar to melt and the flavours to mingle.
  2. In the meantime, place your tail pieces in another large saucepan, generously cover with cold water and place over a high heat to come to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat, pour into a colander to drain the scummy water and give your tails a rinse to clean.
  3. Once the red braise is ready, add the tail pieces. You want the liquid to come to the boil but then cook over a gentle heat so it’s only just simmering.
  4. Check the tail about 90 minutes in. At this stage your red braise should be dark and sinister looking and a little oily and unctuous. The meat on the bone will be starting to soften but will still have resistance. Continue cooking until the meat is almost falling from the bone (another 30-50 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat. This is the end of stage one, so if you want to pause and finish your dish on another day, carefully remove the tail pieces from the saucepan into a container and strain the red braise over the top. It’s important to make sure the pieces are covered with liquid to prevent the meat from drying out.
  5. When you are ready for the next stage, rewarm the tail pieces in the stock, then place a wok over a low heat and add the remaining coriander and fennel seeds. Move them around to gently toast (about two minutes) before adding 200 millilitres of your red braise liquid, the brown sugar, orange juice and balsamic. Bring this mix to the boil and let it simmer for a few minutes before adding the tail pieces. At this stage you want the liquid to be boiling as you gently turn the tail pieces to evenly coat them in the sauce. Season generously with black pepper and keep cooking until the sauce has reduced and is lipsmackingly sticky (about five minutes).
  6. Serve on a sharing platter with the sauce spooned over and the lemon cheeks on the side.

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