Beef Shank and Green Papaya Soup [Cambodian Recipe]

Beef shank and green papaya soup

This beef shank and green papaya soup is one of the many traditional recipes from rural Cambodia. Villagers usually make this beef shank and papaya soup during the “cold” season, which coincides with rice harvesting. The soup’s broth offers both a great way to stay warm and a quick way to get full during a quick break from the hard work in the rice fields.

Beef shank (also known as “beef shin”) is one of the cheapest and least-desired cuts of beef, mostly because it’s lean, tough, and takes a long time to cook. Because it requires a long cooking time on low heat to soften, beef shank is often cooked in a slow cooker, instant pot, or baked in a dutch oven or casserole dish. However, our beef shank recipe makes for an easy dinner on the stove top — although you should set aside at least an hour-and-a-half to account for the long time the soup will have to simmer.

The ingredients for this recipe are simple enough to source. Most large US supermarkets will have beef shanks available; if not, your local butcher will for sure. That said, you may have to venture out to an Asian grocery store to pick up a real green papaya, along with galangal, lime tree leaf, and lemongrass.

Since we moved to Canada, this beef shank soup has helped us replenish both body heat and energy on numerous occasions and we hope it’ll become one of your cold-weather favorites, too!

Beef shank and green papaya soup

Beef shank and green papaya soup

Thida Koeut
This rich, slow-cooked beef shank and papaya soup is the perfect dish for a chilly day!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course dinner, lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Cambodian
Servings 4
Calories 1046 kcal


Beef shank and papaya soup ingredients

  • 1 tspn Black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves Garlic
  • Green papaya large
  • ½ Large Carrot
  • 2 Beef shank
  • 1 knob Galangal 1-inch
  • 5 Lime tree leaf
  • 1 Stalk Lemongrass
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro stems
  • Cilantro leaves as garnish, to taste
  • Green onions as garnish, to taste
  • ½ tbsp Salt
  • ½ tbsp fish sauce use soy sauce as an alternative
  • ½ tspn sugar
  • ½ tspn MSG


Beef shank and papaya soup preparation steps

  • Fill half a medium-sized pot with water, submerge the beef shanks (whole), and set to boil.
    Beef shanks
  • Wash 5 lime tree leaves and set aside.
  • Wash and chop lemongrass stalks into pieces that are 1-2 inches long.
  • Peel and chop carrot into 1-inch pieces.
    Chopped carrots
  • Peel and chop papaya into 1-inch pieces.
    Chopped green papaya
  • Place garlic, peppercorns, and cilantro stems into a mortar and pound with the pestle until achieving a paste-like consistency.
    Garlic black pepper and cilantro stems
  • Take the beef shanks out of the water, rinse them under cold water, discard the water, and set the meat aside.
  • Fill half a large pot with water, set to medium heat, then add the carrots, papaya, lime tree leaves, lemongrass, garlic-and-pepper paste, and beef shanks to the pot.
  • When the soup reaches the boiling point, reduce to low heat and simmer for at least one hour.
    Beef shank and papaya soup simmering
  • Remove the soup from heat and serve over rice.
    Beef shank soup ready to serve
  • Garnish the soup with cilantro leaves.
    Green onions and cilantro


Serving: 350gCalories: 1046kcalCarbohydrates: 133.3gProtein: 77.5gFat: 25.6gSaturated Fat: 9.3gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 4553mgFiber: 4.2gSugar: 61.7gCalcium: 269mgIron: 17mg
Keyword beef shank, beef shank and papaya soup, beef shank soup
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

How do you cook beef shank so it’s tender?

To cook beef shank so it’s tender, you have to keep the meat cooking for a long time over a medium or low temperature. Beef shank is a tough cut of meat, and continued exposure to heat over a prolonged period helps to soften the connective tissue in the muscle fiber, making this lean meat cut tender and juicy. Conversely, high or medium-high heat is not advisable for cooking beef shank, as it makes the muscle fiber even tougher than it already is. In our beef shank and papaya soup recipe, the beef cooks for at least one hour (but the longer the better), but many other recipes — particularly those where the shanks are baked — have a cooking time of 3-4 hours.

Does beef shank taste good?

Yes, beef shank tastes good — as long as it’s prepared properly. Firstly, it’s not a tender meat cut by default. Beef shank is produced by making horizontal cuts immediately under the brisket on the front and beneath the round on hind leg. Whether you get a front or hind shank, the meat is tough because cows tend to have strong leg muscles. So, you have to make the beef shank tender by cooking it for a while at low temperatures. Secondly by cooking the beef shank for a while, you’ll cause the bone marrow to ooze heaps of flavor (and nutrients) into the surrounding liquid. If you’re making a beef shank soup following our recipe (or any other), you’ll get the most taste out of your beef shank by patiently cooking it for an hour at the very least.

What is beef shank best for?

Beef shank is best for dishes that take a long time to prepare, such as stew, soups, and roasts. Beef shank does not have much fat, so its lean meat requires a long cooking time to become tender.  Apart from ensuring tenderness, prolonged cooking over low heat causes the accumulated juices from the beef shank’s bone marrow, fat, and muscle tissue to permeate the dish with a rich, savory flavor. The resulting flavor is similar to the taste you’d get from a beef bone broth if you’d made it by just simmering soup bones for several hours.

Also read: Samlor korko, Cambodian “stirring-pot” soup

Are beef shanks expensive?

No, beef shanks are not expensive — you’ll likely find it to be one of the cheapest beef cuts at your local butcher shop. Beef shank is one of the eight primal cuts of beef, but it’s not a popular cut. Beef shank cuts come from the legs of a cow, where there is minimal fat and the muscle tissue is dense and dough. For best results, beef shanks have to be cooked for a while, and this length of preparation is off-putting for many home cooks.


We hope you’ll enjoy our slow cooking beef shank and green papaya soup! Have you made this soup using our recipe already? Or, do you have another beef shank soup recipe you’d like to share? If so, please leave our readers a comment below!

Thida Koeut

Thida Koeut, born near Kampot, Cambodia, is the chef and author behind Thida's Kitchen. Immersed in Cambodian gastronomy from childhood, she later managed a renowned Danish-French fusion restaurant in Kampot, mastering European culinary techniques. Her hands-on farming experience deepened her connection to authentic Cambodian ingredients. Now based in New Westminster, British Columbia, Thida seamlessly blends her rich heritage with global flavors, presenting them to the world through her online publication.

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