Comfort Food: Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

15 Jan

There’s no way around it – today’s weather sucks. Cold, rainy and all around bleh calls for food that warms the soul and, more practically, my bones. The first time I made Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) was a revelation. My family’s beef stew was the best…but Bo Kho’s the ginger, lemongrass and other spices give the savory stew a little something extra. Bonuses – this meal is super budget friendly and it gets better the day(s) after. Perfect since tomorrow’s weather forecast is just as awful.

Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

  • 1-2 lbs beef shank (you can also grab stew meat pre-cubed to save time)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, tenderize bottom with blunt edge of your knife and cut in big pieces (6″ or so)
  • 2″ knob fresh ginger, cut in thick slices
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 -2 tbl white sugar
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 10 clove points crushed in mortar (if you have powder, use 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 2 tbl fish sauce
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Vietnamese Madras curry powder (I had a paste, so used that)
  • 1/3 cup flour*
  • 3 tbl EVOO
  • 1 tbl annatto seeds
  • 32 oz beef broth
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut on bias in 1.5″ chunks
  • 2 potatoes, washed and cut in 1″ chunks
  • 1 white onion, quartered
  • Garnish: vinegared onions, cilantro, Thai basil, limes.
  • Serve with French Bread, vermicelli noodles or rice

Thuan likes the tendon, so I purchased beef shank with tendons attached. If you prefer leaner meat, go for brisket or even tenderloin. Cut meat in 1.5 – 2″ chunks and dry with paper towel (this helps in the browning process), and set aside.

Mix sugar, pepper, crushed clove and paprika. Season meat with salt and sprinkle on some of this spice mix (maybe a 1/3 of mix) then toss/dredge with 1/3 cup flour* (If you want the dish to be less stew-like and have a lighter, more soupy broth – still as flavorful – skip this).

Ingredients for Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew

Ingredients for Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew

In heavy bottomed pot (I use cast iron for this) over medium high heat, add EVOO and annatto seeds to draw out the beautiful, rich red color from the seeds, stirring often for about 5 minutes. The oil should look like the oil that drips out of sloppy joes.

If you don’t have annatto seeds or can’t find them, you can use red food coloring or even skip it. Scoop out the seeds and add flour dredged meat cubes to brown on all sides. You may have to do this in batches.

Once all of your meat is browned, add in the rest of the spice mixture, lemongrass, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, bay leaves, fish sauce, tomato paste and curry paste/powder. Stir to mix well and cover meat with all the yummy goodness. Pour in beef broth and stir well. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for at 1 – 3 hours (huge range depending on meat type and how much time you have – the longer the better). The house already smells flipping amazing. Yankee Candle should make it a new scent. Seriously.

Bo Kho gettin' happy in the cast iron.

Bo Kho gettin’ happy in the cast iron.

Now is when I like to take a kitchen break and sit down with a glass of wine and trash TV. Tonight’s feature, DVR’d Real Housewives of Beverley Hills.

Come back to the kitchen an hour before you plan to eat and chop up the potatoes, carrots and onion and toss in the pot. Stir, cover and keep cooking.

Once the veggies are soft and meat is fall-apart tender, you’re ready to chow. Serve with chopped cilantro, basic, lime wedge and vinegared onions.

Bo Kho

Bo Kho

What was that again about the rain?

2 Responses to “Comfort Food: Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)”

  1. foods for the soul January 16, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    Mmm I love ginger… It looks like a yummy stew! (Especially with the carrots; they’re one of my favorite vegetables!)

  2. amandare January 16, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Yes – Ginger + Lemongrass is my favorite combo. Delicious!

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