Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bo Kho | Vietnamese Beef Stew Recipe

I had a few Halloween potlucks lined up this year, so I decided to go all out. I wanted to go for a flavorful, hearty slow-cooked meal. My heart was set on bánh mì bò kho (bah koh). I did not realize it would take as long as it did, so be sure you dedicate a few hours to the whole process. But, it was worth the effort as my friends were all smiles and full bellies.

You can also throw on all the ingredients in a slow-cooker (crockpot), but I wanted all the flavors to develop and use the proper steps and techniques as it was my first time making this dish. 

Bánh Mì Bò Kho Recipe 

Recipe by Jane Oh Kim

Total Time: 2-4 hours
Serving: 12


1/4 cup oil 
2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks 
2 pounds beef flank, cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks 
2 pounds beef stew cut, cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks  

12 large carrots, cut into big chunks 
3 sweet onions, cut into big chunks, divided
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (1 lb.), or canned
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, optional

For meat marinade and broth (divided in two): 
6 shallots  
3 garlic heads 
1 large piece of ginger root 
3 lemongrass stalks 
For broth:
16 cups or 4 quarts of water, or beef stock or bone broth
2 bay leaf
1-2 cinnamon sticks
9 star anise, whole or broken
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup tablespoons fish sauce
1/3-1/2 cup tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons palm sugar, grated, or granulated white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chili flakes, optional 
2-4 Thai bird chilies or jalapeño, optional 
Sides, optional
French baguette, toasted (recommended) 
Jasmine rice, steamed
Flat rice noodles
Limes, cut into wedges (recommended)
Fresh cilantro (recommended)
Thai basil (recommended)
White onions, thinly sliced
Green onions, sliced
Jalapeño, thinly sliced 
Pickled onions


Prep (Warning: There's lots of it)

Get your aromatics for the marinade ready. 
Shallots and garlic: Peel & mince. Split shallots and garlic in half.  You will use half of shallots and garlic for sautéing the beef and the other half to make the curry paste.
Ginger Root: Peel & mince, or cut into cut into fine strips. Make about 6 tablespoons.
Lemongrass: Cut off root and tough ends. Peel of tough outer layers. Reserve the tender core. Cut into thirds. Crushed the stalks with the flat side of a knife. meat tenderize or the flat side of a knife, cut each into 3 pieces.  
Tips: Throw all the ingredients, except the lemongrass stalks into the food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped to minced. Use a meat tenderizer to lightly bruise the lemongrass stalks. Use the back of a knife to smash the garlic gloves. The skin should peel off easily. Grate the palm sugar for better absorption. 

Marinate the Meat

In a larger bowl, combine half of the minced aromatics, lemongrass stalks, fish sauce, soy sauce, 5-spice powder, sugar and bay leaf. Add sliced beef. Mix well to evenly coat. Set aside to marinate 30 minutes to 2 hoursReserve leftover marinade for broth. 

Dry Roast the Spices, optional

In a small pan over medium low heat, add cinnamon sticks and star anise. Toast until fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes. Shake the pan or stir with a wooden spoon. Set aside. 

Make the Curry Paste

Heat about 1/4 cup oil in a small pan over medium heat and add rest of the minced aromatics. Heat until  fragrant and slightly golden brown. Add chili flakes and stir for a few seconds until well blended. 

Lower heat to medium-low, add half of the onions and cook gently, stirring, until fragrant and soft, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes and salt.

Cover and cook until mixture is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste, roughly 15 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure tomato is not sticking to bottom of pan. If it is, stir well and splash in some water.

Sear the meat

In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven, heat oil 1/4 cup of oil on high heat until hot but not smoking. Lightly season meat with salt. Working in batches, sear beef on all sides,  then transfer to a plate.  
Tip: As you set aside cooked meat, put some curry paste over it so the flavors can absorb into meat while you finish cooking the rest of the batches. This is optional and a step I made up on the fly. 

Throw it the Pot

In a heavy bottomed pot, like a Le Creuset, add paste, beef, and water. Give it a big stir, then cook uncovered to meld flavors, about 5 minutes. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat. Simmer until beef is chewy-tender (close to being done), about 1.5 hours. Add reserved marinade.

Add Veggies

Add carrots & potatoes. Return to simmer, adjusting heat, if needed. Cook, uncovered, until carrots and beef are tender, about 30 minutes.  
Tip: Cooking it uncovered will help reduce and thicken the soup. Cut the carrots into halves & thirds so they didn't become mushy.


Remove bay leaf, lemongrass and star anise. Then serve with your choice of sides and toppings.


  • You can use one or all of the cuts, or swap with beef shank  
    • Stew cut (pre-cubed) is cheaper than chuck at Costco
  • Slice the white oninons on a mandoline
  • Try Three Crabs for the fish sauce
    • If you're gluten-free or like more high-end, try Red Boat
  • If you want to take the authenticity up another level, use annatto 
  • Lemongrass can be purchased at Ranch 99, other asian markets, or speciality produce stores 
Thanks to...

Enjoy, honey!