vietnamese bò kho – beef stew

Vietnamese Bò Kho

i finished a book last week
it took me awhile
i had to re-borrow
it from the library
because it was taking me so long
there was a time
oh, 20 years ago
when i could finish a book in a day
— A DAY!
now i take snatches of time
to read a few pages,
maybe a few paragraphs
there is always something else to do
stirring the pot
yarn stitches
washing dishes
kissing my husband
now i find that i actually
read all the words
i don’t gloss over the text
i formulate the words
in my head
until they string together
into coherent sentences
and if there’s a word i’m unfamiliar with
i ask dw what it means
(he’s always so good to me,
he always answers,
he always helps me)
i guess the best way to describe
my reading is:
i savor it,
i relish the story
(unless the book sucks,
and then i just move on)
it takes time to sink into a book
rushing through it
doesn’t do the story justice
anything worth reading
is worth reading slowly, yes?

as new year’s resolutions go,
i’m doing damn good
with this reading thing

what books have you been reading?

Vietnamese Bò Kho

vietnamese bò kho – beef stew
adapted from secrets of the red lantern and wandering chopsticks
makes 4-6 servings

*last spring dw & i traveled with some friends to nashville to run a half marathon. we found a random hole in the wall viet joint outside of the city and they had the best bò kho i have ever had. we went there 2x. this is my attempt at recreating that dish. i have failed. however, this version is still pretty good and perfect for the vicious winter we’re dealing with. it takes time for the flavors to meld. i made it one day and didn’t eat it until the next, because like all good stews, it’s always better as a leftover.
**i used two recipes for reference, though on the day of cooking, i winged it completely, in regards to measurements and method. the links i’ve referred have the exact details you might need.
***Luke Nguyen’s recipe intrigued me because it uses beef pho broth as its base. i love me some pho and the spices used in the stock really does add a layer of flavor. for cheater’s version of pho stock, heat up some homemade beef/veggie/chicken stock (store bought is fine too, though shoot for organic and low-sodium) with a stick of cinnamon, a few cloves and anise pods. let it simmer for an hour or so, allow the spices to infuse the stock. BAM! if you’re too lazy or time pressured, regular stock is fine, even water is fine, though the depth of flavor might be lacking.

2lb beef brisket, rump, stew meat, grassfed & cut into bigger than bite size pieces
olive oil or veg oil
1 TBL annatto seeds
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 QT pho stock*** note above
1/2 lb carrots, skinned and chunked
2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
1 onion, studded with cloves and charred
knob of ginger, also charred
2 cloves of garlic, charred
2 bay leaves
basil, for garnish
rice noodles, cooked, to serve

beef marinade
6 hot bap, which i researched is the seed within a cardamom pod
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 tsp rice wine

start off with the marinade – dry fry/roast the hot bap, star anise, cinnamon stick and cloves until fragrant. grind them up in a spice grinder. add the ground up spices and rice wine in a bowl. add the beef pieces and mix well. you can marinate it overnight, i let it sit for the time it took me to assemble the other ingredients and heat up the pho stock, which was about an hour.

in large pot, heat up the oil along with the annatto seeds. this is for color, i’ll be honest, i don’t think it imparts much flavor to the over all dish, so if you want to skip this, i won’t judge you. when the oil reaches desired redness, discard seeds.

pan fry the beef pieces until brown. do this in batches.

add in the lemongrass, ginger, clove studded onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and prepared pho stock. mix in the tomato paste, stir well to incorporate. bring pot to a boil and the lower the heat and simmer on low for anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours. during the last 30 minutes, add in the carrot chunks. this should sufficiently soften them, but they will retain their shape and not get mushy. season with salt to taste, though i will say i didn’t add anything and it came out so lovely & perfectly seasoned.

to serve, pour over white rice noodles (cooked according to package instructions). steamed rice is fine, as is baguette to dip is appropriate too. garnish with green scallions, thinly sliced onions, chopped cilantro, or basil.

best the next day, and then the next.

Vietnamese Bò Kho

21 thoughts on “vietnamese bò kho – beef stew

  1. This stew makes me want to curl up with a book and blanket, which is something I don’t do nearly enough. I’m reading nothing but cookbooks these days, and it’s sad. But I plan to change that…

  2. Now you’re making me feel so guilty. I have a Kindle, a credit card, and insomnia, and I have been tearing it up in the Amazon store lately. Granted I mostly read silly YA fiction in the middle of the night (see: Will Greyson, Will Greyson, etc.) but I did finish The Light Between Oceans last week.

  3. This is my kind of dish. On the week ends especially I love simmering something all day on the stove top or in the oven and when you finally get to enjoy it, it’s heaven. Thanks for sharing, Lan.

  4. Hot bap?!
    I love it. The flavors here are insanely awesome. I’ve never had this dish, restaurant or otherwise! I want some. Our winter has been mostly mild but I am still knee-deep in pumpkin recipes, soups, anything with potatoes. Oh well! Noodles count ANYtime in my world.

    I also read very slowly. I’m working through Consider the Fork. It’s cool so far!

  5. I finally just finished reading Eleanor and Park, actually at your recommendation. It took a while to get from the library – it was on hold FOREVER – and then I had a pile of books to read before I started it…but then promptly finished it in about three days. That, nowadays, is impressively fast! I loved the book, and it made me want to either read it again or never read anything again so that I can savour the finish of it over and over again in my mind.

    1. gasp, i love love love love that book and i am so glad that you liked it too. sometimes my taste in books is off but this particular book really hit a chord in me. i actually BOUGHT the book, i liked it so much.

  6. I have an addiction to buying books but cant ever finish all. They pile up and up. They were the reason for the second suitcase on my way back from Turkey:(
    I will order this dish next time I go to the Vietnamese grill in Charlotte. Never know what to order and fall back on pho always- which is great but need variety once in a while.
    Which book you finished last?

    1. i can’t even remember what the last book i read was! i am currently reading a great book: The Light Between Oceans, though i’ve had to check it out THREE times already!

      bo kho is not always served at restaurants, i’d say it’s 1 outta 5 will have it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s