Vietnamese Beef Stew || Bo Kho

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There are a handful of dishes I consider Vietnamese comfort food, Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) is one of them. Aromatic, savory, full of flavor, it’s one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes in general. I’m sure every family has their own recipe and preference of how to make it and eat. Some enjoy it with rice noodles while others prefer having it along side toasty french baguette. I have grown up with the latter, enjoying this stew with a nice crusty piece of bread to soak up the aromatic robust broth. We already had Hawaiian Rolls at home so we just had the rolls, but definitely get the baguettes if you can. My parents have always used the packet of pre-made marinade/seasoning found at any Vietnamese or Chinese grocery store, but over the years I developed my own recipe that I feel taste just as good and dare I say better than using the pre-made packet seasoning. It’s a recipe that I’m pretty proud of!

Like most recipes, you still have to adjust seasonings according to your preference, but the basis of the recipe will result in an extremely flavorful, deep broth for a delicious Bo Kho. Traditionally, Vietnamese beef stew is made with beef shank and tendon. I’m not a huge fan of tendon and I find using beef chuck gives me the most tender and soft meat, so I always use beef chuck, but you can definitely use shank and tendon if you want! With this recipe, simmering for 2 hours is the minimum, the longer you can let it simmer the better. I think it even tastes better the next day. This recipe makes enough for my husband, me, and my daughter, but she’s 3, so she doesn’t count as a full portion😛, with a little left over for the next day. If you’re making this for at least 4 adults (and you want leftovers) I would double the recipe. The herb that typically gets served with this stew is Thai Basil, but I really enjoy eating an herb called Tia To, a Vietnamese Perilla. Also don’t forget a slice of lime for a little tang. The citrus cuts the richness of the broth very nicely.

Bo Kho Recipe (about 4 servings)
2-3 lb beef chuck cut into 1.5 – 2 inch pieces
1.5 Tbs annatto seeds
¼ cup olive oil
1 yellow onion cut into slices
1 Tbs of minced garlic
4 large carrots cut into 2 inch pieces
2  Tbs frozen lemon grass or 3 stalk of fresh lemon grass bruised
1  Tbs grated frozen ginger or 3 slices of fresh ginger
3 ounce of tomato paste
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs five spice powder
2 tsp curry powder
½  Tbs paprika
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 Tbs fish sauce
1-2 cups coconut juice or water
4 cups beef broth, chicken broth, or water

  1. In a small pan heat olive oil and annatto seeds until color has bled and oil is red about 1 minute. Remove seeds and keep oil.
  2. Marinate beef with ½ tbs of fish sauce, garlic, onion, salt, five spice powder, curry powder, paprika and 1 tbs of the annatto oil.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes, or preferably overnight.
  3. In a large pot add in about 2 Tbs of annatto oil over medium heat, add lemon grass, star anise and cinnamon stick, ginger and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute).
  4. Add meat and brown for about 1 minute on each side.
  5. Add carrots, coconut juice, broth and more water (if necessary) until meat is covered by about 1 inch.
  6. Add tomato paste and bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours until meat is tender.  Add rest of fish sauce and adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Serve with Thai Basil or Vietnamese Perilla and lime.
    IMG_5468Beautiful red annatto oilIMG_5469IMG_5476IMG_5478

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    This broth is packed with flavor.

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    Enjoy!

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