Bo Kho (Vietnamese beef stew) is one of those comforting dishes that we love on weekend mornings when we’re in no particular rush so that we can savor and linger over bowls of aromatic and tender beef dipped with fresh hot out of the oven French baguettes. For us, and many Vietnamese, bo kho is ultimate breakfast food. Not milk or cereal, not even fancy preparations of eggs, delicious as they may be can compare to the aroma of all the fragrant spices in bo kho. Really, you can’t compare waking up to the lingering scents of lemongrass, ginger, chili, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and fresh basil –it’s just not fair.
But since bo kho is so delicious, Vietnamese don’t just eat this dish at breakfast alone. We also serve it with rice noodles called Hu Tieu Bo Kho and enjoy it during lunch and dinner. This way, one pot of bo kho can be enjoyed in several different ways for the entire weekend.
The beef in bo kho is thick cuts of beef shank as well as tendons, both requiring long hours of cooking to become tenderized. I love to make this using my slow cooker, letting it cook overnight and waking up to warm and ready to eat pot of bo kho. However, if you don’t have one it’s not a problem at all.
Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew
2 lbs beef shank, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1/2 knob of ginger, thinly sliced
2 beef tendon strips or about 1/2 lb
1 stalk of lemongrass (white end bruised and slice into 4-5 inch stalk and tie together)
2 bay leaves
3-4 star anise seeds, (toasted optional)
32 oz of beef broth
4 medium sized carrots
2 tbs annato seed oil (see cooks note)
1 tbs diced shallots
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs minced lemongrass
1/2 tbs fish sauce
1/2 ts red chili powder
1/4 ts cinnamon
1/4 ts clove powder
1/4 ts anise powder
1 ts ground pepper
1 ts sugar
Toasted French baguettes
Diced cilantro and green onions
In large mixing bowl, combine the beef shank with the spice marinade for at least 2 hours.
Saute the beef with 1 tbs of annato seed oil until browned and seared under medium high heat. Transfer this into the slow cooker. Add the beef tendons, stalk of lemonsgrass, star anise seeds, bay leaves, and beef broth. You may need to add more broth or water to just cover and submerge the beef.
Set slow cooker to lowest possible setting and allow to cook covered for overnight or about 8 hours. About 1 hour before it's done, add the carrots. Just before serving add another 1 tbs of annato seed oil to the broth for a great red color. Make final adjustment and season to taste.
You can also boil the tendon separately ahead of time on constant high boil for about 2 hours or until tender, then cut and add to the bo kho just before it's done.
If you don't have a slow cooker, simmer in big covered pot until beef is tender about 4 hrs.
To make annatto seed oil, heat 2 tbs of olive with 1/2 of annato seeds. The oil will be steeped with a red color. Do not allow oil to boil, when the color is steeped red, turn of heat and drain the seeds.
Pickle onions the same way you pickle the carrots and daikon with dilute vinegar, sugar, and salt.