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Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Well, that was a rainy and dreary weekend in Regina! Thank god for good books and new episodes of Law & Order: SVU on Netflix.  And thank god for beef stews! You’ve all seen my post on the Irish beef stew, but this time around I decided to make a Vietnamese beef stew (or “bo kho” in Vietnamese).

I remember my mom making this when I was younger and I’ve always loved the heartiness and warmth of it. My mom always used fattier cuts of beef, but as you all know, I like leaner cuts of meat so I used 2 lbs of stewing beef bought at Sobeys (on sale this week!).

Now, there are a couple key differences between Vietnamese beef stews and the beef stews of other cultures (other than seasoning):  1) Vietnamese beef stews aren’t as thick as other stews. If you remember, in the Irish beef stew recipe, the stew is thickened near the end with a butter and flour mixture. Vietnamese beef stews are a little more soupy. 2) European beef stews are served over mashed potatoes. Vietnamese people did not mash their potatoes. Instead, Vietnamese beef stews are served with a thick, crusty loaf of French bread. France ruled Vietnam as a colony for hundreds of years, and you can see lots of French influence in Vietnamese cuisine. For example, Vietnamese “banh mi” (a sandwich served on a baguette), and desserts such as flan and pate a choux pastries. The French introduced bread to the Vietnamese people and this hearty beef stew is only completed by a nice loaf of French bread.

Now, this version of Vietnamese beef stew is a little spicy as I used two red chili peppers. My husband and I both like spicy foods, so this was fine for us, but if you don’t like things too spicy, just use one red chili pepper. There are a couple of spices in this recipe that some of you may not be familiar with and that’s Chinese five spice and star anise. These are common spices in Vietnamese cuisine and when you smell them, it will definitely remind you of Vietnamese broths and soups. You can find them at an Asian food store or grocery stores with well-stocked Asian aisles, like Superstore. I have never found them at Sobeys or Co-op.

Also, although this recipe requires some prep time, I love the fact that there are ‘breaks’ in there where the stew simmers and I can rest. First, I marinated the beef and set it aside. While it is marinating, I prep all the vegetables and gather all the ingredients. I like having all the ingredients prepped and gathered by the stove, as it’s not practical for me to waddle back and forth between the stove and the pantry multiple times anymore! Things could burn or overcook by the time I find the ingredient and make it back to the stove! So the prepping and gathering of ingredients took me about 20-30 minutes. It might be faster for you guys, as I’m moving pretty slow lately, but the beef doesn’t need to marinate for that long. After everything is prepped, the next stage is to brown the meat and throw most of the other ingredients in and let it simmer for 1 hour. That’s enough time to watch one episode of Law & Order or have a decent nap. After that hour is up, you throw in the potatoes and then there’s another 45 minutes of simmer time. That’s another episode or nap!

This was the perfect comfort meal for a rainy weekend! What is your favourite comfort meal for rainy days?

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 2.5 - 3 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of stewing beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 2 red chili peppers, deseeded and finely minced
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into thick 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef stock
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and quartered (or cubed into 2-3 inch pieces)

Instructions

1

Combine the beef, flour, Chinese five spice, pepper, garlic, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Set aside to marinate while you prep all the other vegetables and gather all the other ingredients.

2

Put the oil in a large dutch oven or pot and heat over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, lower the temperature to medium and brown the beef cubes.

3

Add the shallots and red chili peppers and fry for a couple of minutes.

4

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots, cinnamon stick, star anise and beef stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer on the low heat for one hour.

5

After an hour, add the potatoes, give the stew a stir, cover again, and continue to simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.

6

Check the seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed, remove the cinnamon stick and star anise, and serve with a nice crusty loaf of French bread.

Featured/ Vietnamese Recipes

Quick Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

Quick Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

Vietnamese meat dishes often have similar flavour profiles, and those intricate flavour profiles are often derived from expert seasoning and extended marinating times. This particular dish is my favourite because the flavours are in the same family as the Vietnamese Braised Pork and Eggs and the Lemongrass Grilled Pork recipes that I’ve posted before, but it does not require marinating time for the pork.

This recipe literally takes 15 minutes to prep and cook, and at 35 weeks pregnant, that is a huge blessing to me. My pregnant belly is in the way now, so I can’t stand close to the counter to comfortably prep ingredients. Standing for extended periods of time puts pressure and pain on my back and hips. Bending down to grab pots and pans and reaching up to grab plates or ingredients also introduce various types of pain. However, we still need to eat so I still need to cook, but I’ve been leaning towards two types of recipes lately – 1) recipes that take less than 15 minutes to prep and cook like this one or 2) ones that take some prep time but then I can leave on the stove to simmer for an hour or more while I take a nap, like my Irish Beef stew recipe. (I love naps!)

This recipe has a slight spicy kick to it, due to the red Asian chili pepper (I buy the little packets of red peppers at Ngoy Hoa, the Asian grocery store in Regina) and the Sriracha sauce. I recommend pairing it with a cold light beer. If you want to stick to the Asian theme, then try Tsingtao or Sapporo. Otherwise, just pair it with a Bud Light like my husband does. If you’re a wine drinker, spicy Asian dishes often pair well with a chilled sweet German Riesling. I don’t have any specific recommendations right now, but I will once I can drink again so stay tuned!

Serve with some hot fluffy jasmine rice and enjoy. Green onions would make a better tasting and better looking garnish, but I didn’t have any at home when I made this so I garnished with thinly sliced red onions as you can see in my pictures.

Quick Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

If anyone tries it with wine, please let me know what your recommendations are!

Quick Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb pork, cubed into 1-inch pieces (I just buy any lean cut of pork that is on sale and cube it up, usually a pork roast of some kind)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, either finely grated or finely minced
  • 1 red Asian chili pepper, deseeded and finely minced
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
  • Some green onions, diced, for garnish.

Instructions

1

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat and stirfry the pork until browned on all sides. This usually takes 5-6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to preserve the oil and juices in the pan and set the pork aside.

2

Turn the heat down to low and add the shallots, ginger and chili pepper. Cook for 2 minutes until they start to soften up. Add the sugar, 1 tbsp fish sauce and 1/2 cup water to the pan and stir everything together.

3

Bring to a boil, stirring, so the sugar dissolves, then return the pork to the pan.

4

Let it simmer at a low rolling boil for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens and coats the meat. Watch your stove temperature here - it doesn't need to be on high for it to be at a low rolling boil. I find that medium or medium low is enough to have the sauce bubbling consistently. If you leave your temperature on high, the sugar will burn and scorch.

5

Add in 1 tsp fish sauce and the 2 tsp of Sriracha and give it a final stir before removing it from the heat.

6

Sprinkle some green onions on top for garnish and serve with jasmine rice.

Featured/ Vietnamese Recipes

Lemongrass Pork Rice Plate

Lemongrass Pork Rice Plate

Vietnamese rice plates are hands-down my favourite dinner. They are filling, easy to make, and bursting with a variety of flavour – the warm rice, grilled protein, pickled carrots, fresh cucumbers, creamy egg yolk from the fried egg and tangy prepared fish sauce. This particular plate got two thumbs up from the husband, so it’s definitely a substantial enough meal for a growing man!

As I have mentioned before in previous posts, I prefer lean cuts of meat so I used a boneless pork rib roast for this plate. I think the piece I bought was about 2 lbs, costing just over $7, and I used half of it for our dinner for two. I froze the other half and will use it again to make the same plate again whenever I’m craving a hearty rice dish.

Most of the ingredients for this recipe should be pantry staples and/or easy to find, except for maybe the lemongrass. Lemongrass is a stalky plant with a lemon scent, commonly used in Asian cooking.  I always buy my lemongrass from Ngoy Hoa, the Asian grocery store in Regina. I have never found it at Sobeys or Co-op, but Superstore might have it.

Lemongrass

The fresh vegetables added to the rice plate make it a healthy, well-rounded meal. I prefer to keep it simple with just the pickled carrots that I make with my prepared fish sauce, and fresh cucumbers. However, feel free to add whatever vegetables you want. I’ve seen other Vietnamese rice plates built with tomatoes, shredded lettuce and fresh herbs as well.

The recipe below is for the preparation of the grilled pork. The pork is best prepared on a barbecue or a grill. We currently don’t have a barbecue right now as we are still building our backyard deck. I ended up grilling the pork in a cast iron pan, constantly flipping the meat on both sides to build a nice char, and it worked out fine.

Build your plate with the pork, hot jasmine rice, fresh vegetables, and a fried egg, and dress it with prepared fish sauce. This dish is best served with a cold, light beer (says the husband!).

Lemongrass Grilled Pork

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 Cooking Time: 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of lean pork (I used a boneless pork rib roast), sliced
  • 1 tbsp of minced lemon grass (just the white portion, discard the tough leaves at the top)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp of pure fish sauce
  • 1 English cucumber, julienned
  • Fried eggs
  • jasmine rice
  • pickled carrots
  • prepared fish sauce

Instructions

1

Marinate the pork with the lemongrass, garlic, shallots, soy sauce, brown sugar, and fish sauce. The longer you can marinate it, the more flavourful the meat will be. I marinated mine for about 2 hours.

2

Prepare your rice.

3

Prepare the vegetables that you will be including in your plate.

4

Grill the pork slices on a grill or barbecue until nicely charred.

5

Fry up an egg or two.

6

Build a plate to your preference, dress it with your prepared fish sauce, and enjoy!