Vietnamese Beef Stew is one of the most comforting and delicious dishes there is. It is otherwise known as bo kho, and it is often served at celebrations and everyday meals as well!
This traditional take on bo kho will take a bit of time to make, and it has a significant amount of ingredients, however, in the end, it is all worth it, and you can wow your friends and family with your epic cooking skills! Interested? Then read on!
What Is Bo Kho?
Bo Kho is a Vietnamese version of a beef stew, coming from South Vietnam. Kho is the word for braise in Vietnamese, as you just braise the beef in the aromatic.
There are some examples of kho dishes such as:
- Ca kho to.
- Ca hoi kho.
- Thit kho.
- Ga kho.
This contains all the ingredients you would find in an American traditional beef stew, but it also has daikon, fish sauce, lemongrass, and some Asian spices. It is also significantly more liquid than an American beef stew.
This is the reason why it is traditionally eaten with rice, noodles, or bread, anything which can soak up that soup so that it does not go to waste!
In Vietnam, every family will have their recipe to make Bo Kho.
We have chosen to share our favorite take on Bo Kho, and how it is made, with a mixture of very basic cooking, similar to American beef stew, as well as some of the flavor factors and complexities in many of the family recipes for Bo Kho.
How Does Bo Kho Get Its Color?
Bo Kho often has a red hue to it, which may be alluring if not a little bit confusing to some who are new to it, it may make it look spicy for some. However, this stew gets its red color from tomato paste, annatto oil, and sometimes even paprika.
It depends on how red you want to make this dish, as some may want it very red, whereas others are less concerned with the color of the dish.
Some people may choose to only add tomato paste for the tartness and color, and leave out the annatto oil. It does make it easier for those to whom annatto oil may not be super accessible.
However, if you do want a soup that is redder in color, consider adding more tomato paste to the soup as it can improve the color and the flavor
Ingredients List (+ Substitutions & Adjustments)
Let’s take a look at the ingredients, so you can check over your fridge and pantry and see if you need to get anything from the store! In case some ingredients are not super available to you, or if you just don’t like them, we will also cover some substitutions as well!
- Beef (Shank & Chuck): We like using this combination as both have a decent fat content, which can add richness to the broth. Realistically, though, you could use any but beef for Bo Kho.
However, we do recommend using a cut that has a decent amount of fat and some type of beef bone to be able to get the full rich flavor in the broth. You could also choose oxtail, chuck, or shank!
- Ginger and Garlic: Both of these flavorings help to even out the flavor, and get rid of some of the less pleasant beef flavors that can arise.
- Fish Sauce: This sauce adds a delicious umami flavoring to the broth. We prefer to use ‘Three Crabs fish sauce’ however ‘Red Boat fish sauce’ is very popular these days and is probably easier to buy. That being said, any brand should work fine!
- Seasoning (Cinnamon & Five Spice Powder): Adding these seasonings will add even more umami flavor to the beef. The best cinnamon to use would be Vietnamese cinnamon, however, the regular cinnamon powder will work as well.
- Vegetable Oil: Using vegetable oil will help to stop the beef from sticking to the pan when you sear it. Using oil will also make it easier to get the beef a nice brown color.
- Onion: Onions are great, they are simple, but they can add sweetness to your broth. Sweet yellow onion is the best to use as it will add flavor. However, if you want to you can also substitute this with a white onion as well.
- Red Wine: This is not traditional, however, red wine and red meat are well known for pairing well together. It adds a fruity sweetness to the broth. Cabernet and Pinot Noir are both great choices for red wine in Bo Kho.
- Tomato Paste.
- Bay Leaf.
- Star Anise.
- Beef Broth: This adds extra flavor to the broth. If you do not like beef broth, you could substitute this with an equal amount of chicken broth or a tablespoon of beef bouillon.
- Water: Water is a staple in most broths and stews, however, if you do not want to use water, many Vietnamese use coconut water as a substitute. Coconut water can make it sweeter, however, so just be aware of this.
- Mint (optional): Mint will add freshness to the broth. Although it is not necessary, it can add an extra something.
- Lime (optional): Lime can bring an additional brightness and zing to the broth, it is not necessary, however, so you can miss this out if you are not a fan of lime.
- Potatoes (optional): Although you may not think it, this recipe does not need potatoes. You can add them if you wish to however, Yukon is the best choice as they hold their shape even in a soup!
How Do You Make Bo Kho?
This recipe is super easy to make, so do not worry if you will be able to make it or not, think of Bo Kho as just an extra tasty stew!
Start by marinating your beef in fish sauce, five spice, garlic, ginger, vegetable oil, and cinnamon for half an hour. Make sure to cut all of the beef into 1” x1” x1” pieces.
With the beef shank, cut the meat off of the bone, cube it, then add everything, including the bone into the marinade.
Once you have marinated all of the beef, combine the remaining ginger and garlic in a soup pot alongside the onion. Cook these ingredients for around a minute and then add in the marinated beef, so it can brown.
Once done, deglaze your pot with some red wine. While this is not typical of Bo Kho it makes it taste amazing!
Once this is done, add the remaining ingredients into the pot, all aside from the mint and lime, and then bring the soup to a boil.
Now, you want to simmer the soup for around an hour or so until the meat is tender and the soup is completed.
Top Tips To Make It Perfect!
Want some more tips on how to make the perfect Bo Kho for yourself, your friends, and your family? No worries, here are some top tips we have learned to make this dish perfectly over time.
Use Beef With A Decent Fat Content
We like using a mixture of beef chuck and beef shank thanks to their fat content, this is what helps to give you a rich broth. Beef shank with the bone in is delicious as well because bones always make for incredible broths.
You could also use brisket or oxtail, for extra luxurious soup, choose oxtail!
Use Yellow Onion
Yellow onions are always a good choice for adding an extra dash of sweetness to your Bo Kho. Other onions do not have the same effect as Vietnamese broths. You can use other onions if you want to, but be aware they will not have the same effect,
Get A Good Sear On your Beef
Getting a good sear on the beef will add extra flavor and color to your beef and the broth, so ensure it is nicely seared.
Scoop Out Impurities For Clear Broth
The most important thing we could tell you to do for a good broth would be to scoop away impurities. By this, we mean any of the nasty bits of meat that float up to the top when it is boiled.
These will appear like foamy bubbles on the top of the soup. Get a ladle and skim them off the surface to ensure you get a pure and clear broth, rather than one riddled with nasty bits of meat!
Make It In Advance
Soup does need time to soak up the flavor in them, so while you can certainly enjoy it straight after making it, it will usually have more flavor the next day.
If you want a really tasty Bo Kho soup, then make your soup a day ahead and allow the flavor to sink in overnight! It may be frustrating to have to wait, but it will be worth it!
Serving Bo Kho
Bo Kho is best enjoyed with a baguette. However, consider rice or rice noodles instead! The last time we made this, we served it up with some rice, and it was divine! Try all and see what you prefer!
Storing Bo Kho
Bo Kho is easily stored in an airtight container, in your refrigerator for 3 days. However, if you prefer to freeze your Bo Kho, you can also put it in the freezer where it will last for up to 3 months.
If you choose to store it in the freezer, it is best to put your Bo Kho into freezer-safe bags.
This recipe takes 45 minutes to prepare and 1:30hr to cook. We have portioned it in amounts for 8 servings
- 1lb of beef shank, cubed.
- 1lb of beef chuck, cubed.
- 2 minced cloves of garlic.
- 1 piece of 2-3 inch ginger, sliced thin.
- 2 tbsp of fish sauce.
- 1 tbsp of five-spice powder.
- ½ tsp of ground cinnamon.
- 2 tbsp of vegetable oil.
- 3 cloves of minced garlic.
- 1 piece of 2-3 inch ginger, sliced thin.
- 1 thinly sliced yellow onion.
- ½ cup of red wine.
- 1 lemongrass stalk cut into 2” pieces.
- 2 large carrots.
- 1 daikon cut up into chunks.
- 2 star anise.
- 1 bay leaf.
- 1 tsp salt.
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste.
- 1 cup of beef broth.
- 4 cups of water.
- Start by marinating the beef shank and beef chuck for half an hour with 1 2-inch piece of ginger, 2 cloves of garlic, five spice, fish sauce, cinnamon, and vegetable oil. Ensure you include the bone from the shank in the marinade, then set it to the side.
- In a large soup pot, get the onions, the remaining ginger, and the remaining garlic and sauté them for 1 minute. Then, add in your marinated beef and continue to cook for 2–3 minutes until all sides of the beef are seared
De-glaze your pot with some red wine and then cook until the alcohol is burned away, you should not be able to smell alcohol once it has burned out.
- Add in your carrots, bay leaf, daikon, lemongrass, beef broth, tomato paste, salt, and water. Once everything is in, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, so it simmers. Once simmering, allow it to simmer for 1-1:30 hours until the beef is tender.
Be sure to check on your soup every 30 minutes or so and soup away any impurities.
- Once the broth is finished, taste to season, and if it tastes bland add some extra fish sauce, or salt until it tastes as you would like.
- Serve your soup and top it with some mint and lime juice to serve. Pair it with bread, rice noodles, or rice for a fulfilling meal.
This simple and delicious beef stew is well worth trying. It may take some extra time to make, but the flavors that come from combining traditional Vietnamese beef stew with generic American beef stew is immense.
Take a couple of hours to make this, and enjoy it the next day to be astounded by the flavor!
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