Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

by Emily Kemme
Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

After a bit of a tease last week in the form of record-setting temperatures (that’s right, a high of 75 degrees in February), coat weather has returned, along with my appetite for beef stew.

I was searching for a bowlful of warm, comforting stew, and not the standard Irish version of meat and potatoes — and I wasn’t in the mood for a brothy Beef Phô, either. What I discovered was the Vietnamese version of stew called Bò Kho, a hearty, thick broth heady with lemongrass and cinnamon essence. Typically served with French bread, given Vietnam’s occupation off and on by France from 1873 until 1954, it makes sense there is some culinary crossover.

Look for lemongrass stalks with other fresh herb packages. Shopping guides are attached for spices. Aromatic and perfumed, the richness of the spices will wrap your kitchen in a big hug as this stew simmers.

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho) Recipe

3 lbs beef, cut into one inch pieces

6 T canola oil, divided

1 lb carrots, peeled, and if large, halved, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 lb small white potatoes, quartered

2 T Gia Vį Nâu Bò Kho

Note: Kim Tú Tháp, an Asian spice manufacturer, sells a 2 oz packaged spice blend containing paprika, anise, garlic, chili, onion, ginger and cloves. One package is good for two Bò Kho preparations. Look for the spice blend in Asian markets and larger grocery stores.

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

4 cloves minced garlic

3 T minced ginger

2 stalks lemongrass

3 T fish sauce

1 large onion, diced

1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes

2 tsp brown sugar

1 bay leaf

4 cups water, divided

one large cinnamon stick

cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish

Mix Gia Vį Nâu Bò Kho spice mix, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and fish sauce in large bowl. Toss beef pieces in mixture to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes.

In large, heavy pot heat 4 T oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Brown meat and remove to clean bowl. Remove lemongrass stalks.

Add remaining 2 T oil to pot and sauté onions over medium-low heat until golden but not browned.

Add tomatoes, increase heat to medium and scrape up browned bits. Add 1 cup water, brown sugar and bay leaf. Bring to boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add cinnamon stick to pot and remaining water. Bring to boil and simmer for one hour and 15 minutes. Add carrots and potatoes to pot and simmer for an additional 45 minutes, until beef, carrots and potatoes are tender and broth has thickened slightly.

Remove bay leaf before serving.

Serve in warmed shallow bowls sprinkled with Thai basil leaves and French bread.

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Bò Kho, the Vietnamese version of beef stew, is aromatic with cinnamon and lemongrass and hearty enough to qualify as comfort food.

Samuel Smith's CiderBelieve it or not, Stephanie Davis, one half of the Wine Guru team from the popular Wine Two Five podcast, doesn’t limit her alcoholic beverage intake to wine. When she read this stew recipe, she told me it’s time to get out there and try some cider! A couple weeks ago she was skiing with friends and introduced one of them to the concept with a round of Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider, a dry, bottled cider from the United Kingdom. Most interesting part of their restaurant meal? The way that cider was a perfect match for everything the group of diners ordered. Stephanie is certain this Vietnamese stew will find genuine companionship with this refreshing, refined — but not so stuffy — English tart. Priced at $12 for a 4-pack.

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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished,, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.

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