Monday, July 25, 2016

Vietnamese-Style Beef Stew with Tomatoes & Carrots (Bo Kho)

I first came across this dish in Andrea Nguyen's cookbook Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. She noted that "This stew is so popular that practically every Viet cook has his or her own version. I have read recipes that call for curry powder, annatto seeds, tomato paste, and beet...It may be served in shallow bowls with warm French bread...or it may be spooned over rice or wide rice noodles." I took inspiration from her recipe and adapted it, including typical pho garnishes such as bean sprouts, sliced jalapeño, basil, chopped scallions & cilantro, and lime wedges. I also opted to serve the stew over relatively thin (not wide) rice noodles. Delicious, flavorful and (except for the fish sauce) somewhat reminiscent of Chinese soy-braised beef with turnips and carrots.

4-5 lbs. beef chuck and/or beef shank, cut into 1 1/2" pieces

3 tbsp. oil


1 stalk lemon grass (end parts of leaves removed), cut into 3" pieces and smashed (or 2 tsp. lemon zest)
6 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. 5 spice powder
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. oil

1 onion, minced
2 cups seeded, chopped tomatoes
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 bay leaves
1 star anise

8 cups water

2 lbs. carrots (10 medium carrots), peeled and cut along the bias

8 oz. dried rice noodles


Chopped Cilantro
Sliced Scallions
Bean Sprouts
Sliced jalapeños 

1. In a bowl, combine the cubed beef with the marinade ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and let marinate 1-2 hours. 

2. Heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot (an enameled cast iron pot or a Dutch oven work great). 

3. Remove the lemon grass pieces from the beef marinade and set aside.

4. Brown the marinated beef in 3-4 batches (place the beef cubes in a single layer in the pan and don't overcrowd or else they will steam and not brown). Remove and set aside.

5. Add another 1 tbsp. oil to the same pot and add the chopped onions, cooking over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. 

6. Add the chopped tomatoes and 2 tsp. salt. Cover and cook 10-15 minutes over low heat until the tomatoes have reduced.

7. Add the reserved beef, bay leaves, curry powder, and star anise. Cook 2-3 minutes, uncovered, to let the flavors blend with the meat. 

8. Add the reserved lemon grass pieces and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that develops on the surface. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 1 1/2 hours.

9. Add the diced carrots and cook another 3o minutes or until the carrots and beef are tender. 


1. Heat a medium pot of water to a boil.

2. Remove the pot from the heat. 

3. Add the dried rice noodles (do not stir or else you'll break the noodles). Let sit 8-10 minutes until the noodles are al dente, i.e., tender-but not mushy.

4. Drain noodles in a colander.


1. Place cooked noodles into individual serving bowls (how much depends on your or your guests'  appetite).

2. Ladle hot beef stew over the noodles.

3. Garnish each bowl with bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, scallions and lime wedges (or you place all the garnishes on a platter and let your guests add their own). 

Beef chuck

Cubed beef with marinade ingredients (marinate in the frig for 1-2 hours).

Lemon (use this if you don't have lemon grass), ginger root, five spice powder, fish sauce, black pepper.

Brown the marinated beef in batches.

In the same pan, brown the onions in 1 tbsp. oil.

Add tomatoes and 2 tsp. salt.

Cover and cook 10-15 minutes until the mixture has reduced.

Add beef, bay leaves, curry powder and star anise.

Add 8 cups water and reserved lemon grass from the marinade. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours.

Diced carrots.

Add the diced carrots and cook another 30 minutes or until the carrots and beef are tender.

Serve the stew over rice noodles
Garnish, as desired, with bean sprouts, jalapeños, cilantro, scallions, basil and lime wedges.
Also great served as is with French bread on the side or over rice.

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