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Bo Kho – Vietnamese Beef Stew

Bo kho is a delicious Vietnamese beef stew that can be made in one pot!

If you like a good pho, there’s absolutely no reason why you won’t love bo kho which can be made in a fraction of the time.

This Vietnamese beef stew is delicious served just like pho over rice noodles.

bo kho

Super easy to make. This one pot stew is amazing.

Why make bo kho?

It may not have the fame that beef pho does but don’t let that stop you. Bo kho tastes amazing and can be whipped up in less than an hour.

What’s more, it’s a lot less fussy to make. I tested this recipe on my family and they loved it just as much as beef pho. This is the perfect meal to make after work too. Once you get everything in the pot, you can sit back and relax until the beef is tender and the sauce delicious.

About this recipe…

My wife and I first tried bo kho in Ho Chi Minh City. We were trying to find some breakfast one morning and found a restaurant called bo kho. 

We later learned that the best restaurant specialise in one dish and often name their restaurant after that dish.

We made friends with the owner over our week stay. Unlike most, he happened to speak really good english and I got to watch him prepare his bo kho early one morning. This is how he made it but on a much smaller scale. 

What exactly is bo kho?

Bo means beef and kho is a cooking method in Vietnam. Kho on its own is a dish where meat is cooked until tender, braising it until most of the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a thick sauce.

Bo kho, however is nothing like that. This is much more like a hearty stew. Like many Vietnamese recipes, achiote oil is added to give it a deep red colour. I didn’t do that this time but surely will in future. 

Where did bo kho originate?

This is actual a copy of a Chinese dish but the Vietnamese changed it slightly, adding their own local ingredients. You can now find it all over Vietnam. 

How is bo kho different to pho?

Although there are certainly similarities, there are also things that make this dish quite different. 

It is usually oilier that pho, especially when achiote oil is added. It also has a delicious coconut flavour from the coconut water that the beef is simmering in and it is much more garlicky. 

In addition, it’s spicier than pho. 

Step by step photos…

Ingredients for bo kho

Get all your ingredients together before starting. It’s easier to cook that way.

Marinating beef

Place all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Pour in the beef and coat all over with the marinade.

Frying star anise and sliced onions.

Add oil to a saucepan and add the star anise. Infuse into the oil for about 40 seconds. and then add the sliced onions.

Adding lemongrass and garlic to pan

Stir in the lemongrass and garlic and fry for a further minute or so.

Adding tomato paste and chilli powder to pan

Stir in the tomato paste, paprika and chilli powder.

Adding chopped tomatoes to pan

Then add the chopped tomatoes and stir it all up to combine.

Finishing the dish by simmering in coconut water

Cover with the coconut water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the beef is tender. Then add the carrots and cook them through.

Finished bo kho

To finish, place the cooked rice noodles in bowls. Cover with the stew and serve with fresh herbs at the table.

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Yield: 4 - 6

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Beef Stew

bo kho
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 x 5cm (2inch) piece of ginger, minced
  • 70ml fish sauce
  • 1 tsp 5 spice powder
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1.25kg (1 ½ lbs) stewing steak
  • For the stew
  • 3 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, woody outer removed and then minced
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 x 400ml tins chopped tomatoes
  • 750ml (3 cups) coconut water
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 4 carrots cut into 5mm coins
  • Additional fish sauce to taste
  • To Serve
  • 150 – 200 grams rice noodles
  • 2 – 4 tbsp chilli oil (optional)
  • Sliced red onion
  • Chopped greens such as basil, mint and/or coriander (cilantro)
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Start by marinating the beef. Place the minced garlic and ginger, fish sauce, chilli powder and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until you have a smooth marinade. Add the beef and stir it in until nicely coated with the marinade mixture. Allow to marinate while you prepare the stew ingredients or overnight. The longer the better.
  2. When ready to prepare the stew, heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat and add the star anise to infuse into the oil for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the sliced onion and fry for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Then stir in the lemongrass and chopped garlic and fry for a further 30 seconds. Add the marinated beef with any remaining marinade and brown on all sides for about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chilli powder and paprika and then add the chopped tomatoes and coconut water. Bring this to a simmer and cook until the beef is almost tender enough to eat. This should take about an hour and 20 minutes.
  5. Add the soy sauce and carrots and cook until the beef is tender and the carrots are cooked through. Add more fish sauce to taste.
  6. To serve, spoon the hot stew into bowls and and top each with a little chilli oil, sliced red onions, herbs and lime wedges.

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I hope you enjoy this bo kho recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Irfan

Tuesday 28th of June 2022

Dan, I think there is a mistake in the recipe. The Ingredients include 1 tsp of 5 spice powder, but this is not then used in the Instructions. Can you please clarify... Thanks

Caroline Toombs

Monday 4th of July 2022

Thanks but there is not any 5 spice powder in the ingredient list? Kind regards Dan

Irfan

Monday 27th of June 2022

Dan, This looks like another amazing recipe on your amazing blog. But I was a bit confused by 1 tsp Five Spice powder in the list of Ingredients; there seems to be no further mention of it. I think you meant 1 tsp chilli powder, which is a part of the marinade. Let us know please. Thanks!

Caroline Toombs

Monday 4th of July 2022

Thanks but there is not any 5 spice in the in the ingredient list? Kind regards Dan

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