Vietspices Search

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

What could be better than eating a bowl of Bò Kho (Vietnamese beef stew) in these cold days of Autumm. Bò Kho blends flavors of earthy spices and popular ingredients from all over Asia.  The lemongrass, ginger, garlic, shallots, star anise, and curry powder all spice up this warm, aromatic, comforting unique flavored beef stew. 

Beef shank, beef flank and beef chuck are the three types of beef used in the stew.  They are tough and chewy but  are perfect ingredients for bò kho.   Beef flank cuts has a layer of tendon on top, while  beef shank and beef chuck have lots of dense muscle tissues. After a long, slow stewing, these become very tender and impart a luxurious depth of flavor and texture.

Curry powder is also one of the important spices in the beef stew. Choose curry that includes a mixture of curry, turmeric, chili, coriander, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, allspice and salt. 

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to cook for a group of 20 who came to our house for bible study. I cooked a 16 quart pot of bò kho and served it with bread and noodle. As I still have quite a few puff pastry sheets left in my freezer, I  decided to use them to make a few pot beef stew (similar to Pot Pie). My girls loved breaking down the flaky and light puff pastry crust and dipping it in the beef stew sauce. It was a good sign that an entire big pot of stew was quickly consumed. It was a good thing that I made a bunch of Pate Chauds to make sure my guests leave with satisfied tummies.

So the next time you need a cure for a cold, windy, rainy day, try on this Bò Kho recipe for size.


2 pounds beef chuck (bắp vai bò), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 pounds beef flank (nạm), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 pounds beef shank (bò bắp), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
16 cups or 4 quarts of water
6 lemongrass stalks
 1 large piece of ginger root
6 shallots  
3 garlic heads
9 star anise
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
9 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoons chili flakes, optional
2 tablespoons annatto seeds, for annatto oil
1/2 cup oil, for annatto oil
12 carrots, cut into big chunks
3 sweet onions, cut into big chunks
A handful of basil leaves, for the broth
a bunch of cilantro, for garnish

Bring a pot of water and 3/4 of lemongrass to a boil.

Making Annatto Oil

Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a sauce pan over low heat for about 2-3 minutes. As the temperature rises, the red color will leach from the annatto seeds. Let it cool down for a few minutes, then strain and discard seeds.  Store it in a jar for later use.
Toasting Star Anise

Place star anise in a small pan over medium low heat. Toast until fragrant.  Set aside. 

Preparing Shallots, Garlics, Ginger Roots,  Lemongrass

Lemongrass - lightly crushed with a meat tenderize or the flat side of a knife, cut each into 3 pieces.
Shallots and Garlic - mince. Split shallots and garlic in half.  You will use half of shallots and garlic for sauteing the beef and the other half to make the curry paste.  
Ginger Root cut into fine strips.  Make about 6 tablespoons.
Sauteing Beef

Divide the meat into 3 batches if your skillet isn't large enough for one batch. Heat a tablespoon of annatto oil in a skillet. Add ginger, garlic and shallots and stir until slightly golden brown. Add the beef and stir until seared. 

beef flank

beef shank

beef chuck

Transfer seared meat into the boiling water pot. Add toasted star anise, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 1.5 hours or until the beef is tender. 
Making Curry Paste

Heat about 1/4 cup  annatto oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the remaining shallots, garlic and stir until fragrant and slightly golden brown.

Add curry powder and chili flakes and stir for a few seconds until well blended. If you can’t take spiciness, decrease the amount of chili flakes or omit it.  Set aside.

Simmering Stew

Thirty minutes before the beef is done, remove the star anise.  Add the remaining lemongrass, carrots, and onion.

Cook until carrots are tender. Add the curry paste and toss in the basil leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes.  Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, fish sauce, or sugar if necessary.
Making Beef Stew Pot Pie 

In an oven safe bowl, add 2/3 bowl of beef stew. Place the puff pastry sheet over the top of the dish.

Brush the top with egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon water or milk) and place in oven at the middle rack. Bake at 350° until pastry puffs turn golden, about 15 minutes.

Ladle beef stew in a shadow soup bowl. Garnish with cilantro and fresh basil leaves. Serve with toasted bread or noodle. Serve with salt, fresh black pepper, and lime dipping sauce for beef cubes.

Bon Appetite!


  1. Bo Kho is a great dish in the fall/winter. Next time I'm going to try the puff pastery.

    Every week I look forward to seeing new recipes on the blog and wish it was more often. The pictures make me want to eat it. :) Thanks for the Vietnamese coooking blog. I love that you write it in English. So people like me can't read in Vietnamese but want to cook and eat Vietanmese food.

    I would love to see more videos.

    On a differnt topic- how do you cut banana blossom. I have try to search a video/blog/internet and could not the detail on how to cut that darn thing.

    Also, you should start a facebook page. I would so want to follow you.


    God has given you a great gift in cooking and may you continue to share the gift with others.

  2. Hi Brenda,
    Thank you for your encouraging words. That means a lot. I just do what I love and hope to share with those who love food and cooking.

    I would love to make more videos soon when I have time.

    I do have a facebook page but I've been trying to figure out how to link it to my blog.

    How to cut banana blossom? - in a large bowl, mix water with lemon, lime or salt. Peel each petal of the banana blossom and discard the banana flowers. Stack the petals together. Rub half of a lemon or lime on the peeler to prevent the sticky secretion from sticking to the peeler. Slice the petals thinly. As you slice it, place shredded banana blossom in the water mixture. Soak for about 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water and let dry.

  3. Thank you for the recipe. I was wondering how many serving is this recipe? Do I have to use the 3 different kind of meat?

  4. This recipe can serve abou 10 people. You don't have to use 3 different kind of meat. But my favorite ones are beef shank and flank.

  5. Thank you! I have lots of flank! I will be making it tomorrow!

  6. Thank you for the recipe! Is it traditional for the stew to have tomato or not? I am seeing recipies with both!

  7. Thank you for your recipe. I had 25 people over and I made bo kho following your exact recipe. It was an absolute hit! Love, love it. What i love even more is how your blog allows tradition to continue on effortlessly. Have been sharing it with my very fastidious friends.

  8. Chi Loan oi, do you have to marinade the beef first? Thanks for this wonderful recipe.

  9. I followed this recipe for the Mid Autumn festival. It was great! This was definitely a piece of home cooking for me (since moving out to Arizona) I did cut down the recipe by more than a half and it was still plenty for two. Keep up the good work, I look forward to many more of your recipes!