In the (mumble) five (mumble) years since my last post, I’m thrilled to share I’ve been working on perfecting the recipe for Vietnamese bò kho beef stew.
Ha, just kidding!
Here’s a recipe I actually tried for the first time this weekend, and it turned out pretty awesome.
Though it’s been unseasonably warm in San Francisco, my internal clock has been notifying me it’s time for hearty stews, warm drinks and things with lots of cinnamon in ’em. This is probably why bò kho, a beef and carrot stew with lemongrass and dashes of warm cinnamon and anise, has been on my mind.
To the best of my recollection, my Vietnamese mother never made this dish. However, it was — and still is — a signature recipe made by my aunt (or bác ba gái) at Sunday dinner get-togethers. Back in the day, when the Nguyen’s rolled 20-deep into an apartment in San Francisco’s Western Addition district, a huge pot of simmering bò kho was the perfect reward for an excruciating loooooong hour of mass. At least according to seven-year-old Victoria.
Nowadays, it’s still a reward. Whether it’s traveling 45-minutes to bác ba gái’s house to celebrate a new addition to the Nguyen clan, or guarding your pot as the broth simmers into its third hour — bò kho is always worth the effort.
Fragrant and light (yet filling), this stew is soulful enough to please adults and simple enough to quiet picky, snot-nosed youngsters (see: seven-year-old Victoria). Sop up the broth with a side of toasted French bread, or serve over a small bed of vermicelli rice noodles, garnished with basil and a squeeze of lime.
Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef and Carrot Stew)
2.5 lbs beef, your choice of beef shank, chuck, stew meat, oxtail and/or beef tendon
1/2 knob of ginger, thinly sliced
1 stalk of lemongrass (white end bruised and slice into 4-5 inch stalks)
2 bay leaves
3-4 star anise seeds, (toasted optional)
32 oz of beef broth
4 medium sized carrots, slices into 1.5″ pieces on the diagonal
1 tb Chinese five-spice seasoning (see note below)
2 tbs annato seed oil (see note below)
1 tbs diced shallots
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs minced lemongrass
1/2 tbs fish sauce
1 tb Chinese five-spice seasoning
1 ts sugar
1 ts ground pepper
toasted french baguettes
diced cilantro and green onions
vermicelli rice noodles
In large mixing bowl, combine meat with the spice marinade for at least two hours.
Saute the protein (minus tendon, if using) with 1 tbs of annato seed oil until browned and seared under medium high heat. Toss in Chinese five-spice seasoning and allow spices to become fragrant, about one minute.
Add the beef tendon (if using), lemongrass, star anise seeds, bay leaves and beef broth. You may need to add more broth or water to submerge the beef. Bring to boil, then lower flame to simmer for three hours, or until meat is tender and dee-licious.
About 1 hour before it’s done, add the carrots and simmer without the lid. Make final adjustments and season to taste. Drizzle another 1 tbs of annato seed oil to the broth for a spot for color (optional). Discard lemongrass stalk and star anise seeds before serving.
If you using a slow cooker, set the cooker to its lowest possible setting and allow to cook overnight or about 8 hours. In its last hour, toss in your carrots.
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 off heat and drain the seeds. If you can’t find annatto seeds, one 6-ounce can of tomato paste will work as well.
If you don’t have Chinese five-spice seasoning, substitute with:
1 ts red chili powder
1/2 ts cinnamon
1/2 ts clove powder
1/2 ts anise powder