Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

Be prepared for one of the richest broths you can meet: Bò kho, aka Vietnamese Beef Stew! Perfect for soaking up a warm Vietnamese baguette, noodle or even fluffy jasmine rice. But I’ll always reach for a banh mi!

The beef in this dish is very versatile and so easy to make. I used short ribs and tendon, but you’re welcome to use any beef you desire (as well as tripe, or a classic oxtail!). You can make bo kho on the stove, in a crock pot/slow cooker or in the instant pot, but bò kho is the perfect dish to make in an instant pot in my opinion!

We’ll be making this from scratch, with no special packaged bò kho seasoning or spice mix required (you just need star anise, cinnamon, annatto seeds & five spice). This dish unites a few iconic flavours of Vietnamese cooking: fish sauce, citrus from lime and star anise aromatics (familiar from pho). The beef is incredibly flavourful, the carrots add a sweetness, a squeeze of lime breaks through the flavours, with a salt-pepper-lime dip which ties it all together.

Here’s a few tips for that perfect bowl of Bò Kho

  • Add carrot and tendon once the meat becomes tender so you don’t end up with mush! If you like more filler, I would recommend daikon & potatoes as well!
  • If you add tendon, be cautious of a super gelatinous broth! But, you can easy heat it up and make it become liquid gold again.
  • To create that iconic orangey oil hue and add to the savoury taste, add annatto seed oil! To make annatto seed oil, heat a half tablespoon of oil over med-high heat, then add annatto seed and lightly toss. After 2 minutes, remove the seeds, and reserve the oil.
  • Not a tip, but a very clever side recipe – Bo Kho Birria Tacos by Twaydabae!

Recipe: Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

Serves: 2
Cooking time: 20
Preparation time: 10

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ingredients:

Marinade

3½ lb Beef Short Rib / Brisket / Tendon
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
1 tablespoon Sugar
1½ tablespoon Five Spice Powder

Aromatics & Broth

2 tablespoons Neutral Cooking Oil
2 tablespoons Garlic, minced
2 tbsp Tomato paste
3 Bay Leaves
1 Cinnamon Stick
3 cloves Star Anise
4 cups Chicken Stock
2 lb Carrots (and/or Potatoes)

Dipping Sauce (Optional)

2 teaspoons Lime juice
¼ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
(Optional) Thai Birds Eye Chili, chopped

Accompaniments

Vietnamese Baguette, or Any White Bread
White Onion, thinly sliced
Green Onion / Thai Basil
Lime wedges

Instructions: Stovetop

  1. Cut beef into 1-2 inch pieces. In a bowl, combine fish sauce, black pepper, salt, sugar, five spice powder & lemongrass. Mix beef well into marinade, and allow to marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a large pot on medium-high heat (or sauté for instant pot). Add 1 tbsp of oil. Sear for 2-3 minutes, until just coloured. Remove meat from heat. To the same pot, add 1 tbsp of oil. Once hot, add minced garlic and tomato paste, sauté for 2 minutes. Add aromatics (bay leaves, cinnamon & star anise), and saute for a further 2 minutes. 
  3. For stove top: Add meat back to pot, along with chicken stock. Allow to simmer for 1.5 hours and skim broth for scum continually. Add carrots, and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  4. For instant pot: Add meat back to instant pot, along with chicken stock (or 4 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of chicken stock powder). Set to high pressure for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, release valve. Add tendon and carrots to instant pot. Set to high pressure for another 10 minutes. Release once complete. Adjust to taste by adding 1 tsp of chicken powder at a time.
  5. (Optional) For the dip mixture, combine lime juice, salt and black pepper.
  6. Ladle stew into a bowl. Top with thinly sliced white onion, and a squeeze of lime to taste. Enjoy with bread, noodles or rice.

Instructions: Tendon (Optional)

  1. In a bowl, mix blend 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 tsp of salt. Add tendon and allow to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Add tendon to instant pot and fill water until just submerged.
  3. Set instant pot on high pressure for 20 minutes. Allow to natural release.
  4. Remove tendon from pot, and allow to dry in a paper towel, keep in fridge until ready to add to Bo Kho broth (step 3, along with carrots).

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