Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)


bo kho

Stew is one of those delicious meals I grew up with in Canada when it was cold outside and the snow was piled high against the house. The aroma of the stew slowly cooking through the late afternoon and early evening, helped me to quickly finish my chores outside. It was always a rush to get back inside to the warmth of the house and a nice bowl of stew filled with large chunks of tender beef and hearty vegetables. On some days, my mom would even cook the stew with dumplings. That was a special treat and comfort food at its best growing up.

Several years ago, I finally got around to getting a Le Crueset cast iron oven (where were you all my life!) and have been having fun playing with different stew recipes. Some I pull from my childhood memories and others I find in cookbooks and on the web. I came across this Vietnamese Beef Stew recipe in the Wall Street Journal and it has become one of my favorites. As with any stew, this recipe is not carved in stone, and you can add potatoes, snow peas, daikon, chilis or even oxtails. What makes this dish unique though, are the aromatic ingredients of lemongrass, ginger, star anise and Chinese 5-spice powder. Try it and see for yourself.

This is a perfect dish for those days when it is cold and snowy outside.

Let it Snow Cold Winter on the Dock
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Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho), adapted from WSJ
Serves 4 

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 2 to 2 1/2 lbs. boneless beef chuck or other stew meat, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 3-inch lengths and smashed
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar

Stew

  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) tomato purée
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups baby carrots
  • 1 small bag (6 ounces) baby spinach
  • Thai basil, to garnish

Directions

  1. Combine the stew meat, lightly smashed lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, five-spice powder and brown sugar in a bowl. Mix well to evenly coat and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. In a cast iron Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, sear beef on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Each batch should take about 3-5 minutes total. Save the lemongrass and extra marinade to add to the stew later.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the onions to the Dutch oven, stir until fragrant and soft, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée and salt. Cover and cook until the sauce is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste, approximately 12-15 minutes. Stir occasionally, checking to make sure the sauce is not sticking to bottom of pan. If it is, stir well and splash in some water.
  4. When a paste has formed, add back the beef, reserved marinade ingredients and star anise. Give a big stir, then cook, uncovered, to meld flavors, about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and bring the stew to a boil, cover and lower heat. Simmer until beef is chewy-tender (close to being done), about 75 minutes.
  5. Add carrots and cook uncovered until carrots and beef are tender, about 30 minutes more. Add the spinach, and cook for another minute. Before serving, remove and discard the lemongrass and star anise, and garnish with basil.

As with many stews, this can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and reheated before serving.

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