Friday, October 31, 2014

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Spicy Beef Stew

The first time I had Bo Kho was at a Vietnamese restaurant called Far East Cuisine at a strip mall in Tallahassee. I kept going back again and again to that restaurant just for their Bo Kho. I am sure they had other things on their menu, and I might have even tried a few over the years but their Bo Kho was love at first bite. Bo Kho is Pho's distant spicy, stewy cousin flavored with ginger, star anise and lemongrass. I haven't found it on the menu at any of Vietnamese restaurants I have frequented here in NZ, which is such a shame! I have decided to try and recreate the magic by turning to the internet for recipes.Wandering Chopsticks have come to my rescue with their recipe. I have adapted their recipe and tweaked it to resemble the Bo Kho I remember. Though I have cooked it in a slow cooker, I think a pressure cooker will work well too. If using a slow cooker, I'd recommend not skipping on searing the meat with the spices. It tastes a lot better when cooked this way. Also, an added benefit to this method is that the flavor of the spices get released beautifully.

If you are in Tallahassee, my advice would be to stop reading now, haul yourself to Far East Cuisine on Thomasville Road and order some Bo Kho ASAP!

Yield - Serves 4
Prep Time - 30 Minutes
Cook Time - 7 Hours (Slow Cooker)

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Spicy Beef Stew
Bo Kho - Spicy Vietnamese Beef Stew

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Spicy Beef Stew

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Spicy Beef Stew


1.5 LB Beef stew meat
2 Medium Potatoes
2 Medium Carrots
1 Large Onion
1 inch Ginger, sliced
2 Blades Lemongrass
2 Bay Leaves
1 inch Cinnamon
3-4 Star Anise
2 Tablespoons Anatto Seeds
2 Tablespoons Madras Curry Powder
2 Teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice Powder
2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons Tomato Puree
2-3 Cups Water or stock
Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, Cracked
Cilantro, a few sprigs
Basil Leaves


Cut the meat in 1 and a half inch cubes and sprinkle with all purpose flour, some salt and pepper and combine.

Combine the 5 spice powder and curry powder with the meat and keep aside.

Slice the onions and ginger. Heat  a tablespoon of oil in a pan and sauté them. Add the bay leaves. Caramelize. Set aside when done.

In the same pan, add another tablespoon of oil if needed, and brown the meat in batches. Don't over crowd.

In the slow cooker, add the onion, ginger and bay leaves along with the lemongrass (bruised), star anise and cinnamon. I have used frozen lemongrass here, since I always have some in the freezer.

Cut the potatoes in medium to large sized cubes and slice the carrots in half inch thickness at an angle. Add these over the onions and spices.

Add the browned meat over this.

Add the tomato puree and mix it with the beef.

In a microwave, heat the anatto seeds with half a cup of water for about 30-40 seconds. This releases the color of the seeds and makes the water a bright red. Strain the seeds out and just add the bright red colored water into the slow cooker.

Add the rest of the water, fish sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and cook for 6-7 hours on low. (I cooked it on high for 5)

To serve, squeeze some lemon and garnish with fresh basil leaves and cilantro. Serve with vermicelli noodles or rice.



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