While the world is nuts about phở, my Vietnamese noodle/broth combination of choice is bò kho.
Bò kho is a beef stew deeply infused with star anise and lemongrass. The hunks of meat and carrots in bò kho are tender as can be due to hours of simmering.
Back in California, my family ate bò kho with a wide(ish) rice noodle that sometimes veered toward tender. In Saigon, bò kho is served with a thinner and more al dente rice noodle.
The fabulous bowl of bò kho featured up top is from a hidden stall on Ton That Thuyet Street in District 4. The Astronomer and I, along with his sister Rosalind and gas•tron•o•my reader Shay from LA (!), shared two bowls (10,000 VND each) on our early morning food tour today.
For a lovely bò kho recipe from Andrea Nguyen, click below.
San Jose Mercury News
April 23, 2003
By Andrea Nguyen
Bò Kho – Beef Stew with Star Anise and Lemongrass
- 2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (weight after trimming)
- 1 hefty stalk lemongrass (about 3/4-inch diameter at its thickest), dry outer leaves removed, cut into 2-inch lengths and bruised
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
- 2 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 cups peeled, chopped fresh tomato or 1 3/4 cups canned crushed tomato (a 14-ounce can)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 star anise
- 3 cups water
- 1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
- Chopped rau ram or hung que (Asian or Thai sweet basil) leaves, optional (see Note)
Marinate beef for 30 minutes with lemongrass, fish sauce, fivespice powder, ginger, brown sugar and bay leaf. Over a high flame, heat oil in a heavy bottomed, 5-quart Dutch oven until it is hot enough to lightly sizzle a piece of minced ginger upon contact. Sear beef in oil and remove from pot. Remove and reserve lemongrass and bay leaf.
Reduce heat to medium low and add onion. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomato and salt. Stir to combine.
Cover and cook 12-14 minutes, until mixture is fragrant and moderately thick. If mixture begins to stick to bottom of pan, add a bit of water.
Add beef, lemongrass, bay leaf and star anise. Cook uncovered another 5 minutes. Add water. Bring stew to a boil and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Add carrots and continue to simmer, uncovered, an additional 45 minutes or until carrots and beef are tender. Do a final flavor check, adjusting with salt or a shot of fish sauce, if necessary.
Remove lemongrass and star anise before serving in shallow bowls with an optional sprinkle of rau ram or hung que.
Note: Rau ram is sometimes called “Vietnamese coriander” or “hot mint,” and hung que is the anise-flavored purple
basil often served alongside pho beef noodle soup. Both are available at Asian grocery stores.
Per serving: 528 calories, 53g protein, 23g fat (5g saturated), 29g carbohydrate, 937mg sodium, 136mg cholesterol, 5g