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 savour 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.
Just before enjoying bo kho, squeeze on lime and add fresh basil and pickled onions. The rich and fragrant beef flavors will be enhanced by the basil and perfectly balanced by the acid in the lime and pickled onions. If only we could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday!
Beef shank : 2 lbs, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
Ginger : 1/2 thinly sliced
Beef tendon : 2 strips
Lemongrass : 1 stalk (white end bruised and slice into 4-5 inch stalk and tie together)
Bay leaves : 2
Star anise seeds : 3-4 (toasted optional)
Beef broth : 32 oz
Carrots : 4 medium sized
Annato seed oil : 2 tablespoon (see cooks note)
Shallots : 1 tablespoon diced
Garlic : 1 tablespoon minced
Paprika : 1 tablespoon
Lemongrass : 1 tablespoon minced
fish sauce : 1/2 tablespoon
Red chili powder : 1/2 teaspoon
Cinnamon : 1/4 teaspoon
Clove powder : 1/4 teaspoon
Anise powder : 1/4 teaspoon
Ground pepper : 1 teaspoon
Sugar : 1 teaspoon
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.
- Sauté the beef with 1 tablespoon 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 tablespoon 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.