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Milk Street Bowtie Vietnamese Beef Stew with Star Anise and Lemon Grass (Bò Kho)

Vietnamese Beef Stew with Star Anise and Lemon Grass (Bò Kho)

4-6 Servings

3¼ hours 45 minutes active

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In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Nguyên Thį Thúy, literature teacher and home cook, showed us how to make bò kho, a fragrant beef stew that marries local ingredients with French culinary technique. Though recipes for bò kho vary from cook to cook, star anise and lemon grass are essential flavorings, the finished broth is always quite soupy (not thickened with starch as Western stews are) and its color is deep red. In simplifying the formula we were taught in Vietnam, we skipped the 30-minute marination of beef with seasonings and we opted to use low-sodium beef broth instead of concentrated meat bouillon. We also chose to use beef chuck instead of brisket, as we find chuck has the right amount of fat and connective tissue to yield both rich flavor and body. Coconut water, along with the beef broth, is the cooking liquid; its natural sugars and minerals enhance the flavor of the stew. Ladle the bò kho over rice stick noodles (prepared according to package directions and divided among individual bowls) or serve with steamed jasmine rice or a crusty baguette.

4-6

Servings

Tip

Don’t use coconut water that contains added sugar. A small amount of natural sugar is normal but check the ingredients listed on the label for added sugar. Also, after adding the liquid to the pot and bringing it to a boil, be sure to turn down the heat and simmer without stirring to allow the scum (proteins from the meat) to rise to the surface. After a few minutes of simmering, use a spoon to skim off and discard the scum; this results in a clearer, more visually appealing broth.

3¼ hours

45 minutes active

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 ounces fresh ginger, unpeeled, sliced
8 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce, divided, plus more if needed
4 stalks fresh lemon grass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised
6 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch chunks
4 cups or one 33-fluid ounce container unsweetened coconut water (see headnote)
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
4 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve
Thinly sliced white onion, to serve
Fresh cilantro and/or basil, to serve
Ingredients
  • 2

    tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 1

    large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 3

    ounces fresh ginger, unpeeled, sliced

  • 8

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • 2

    tablespoons tomato paste

  • 2

    tablespoons chili-garlic sauce, divided, plus more if needed

  • 4

    stalks fresh lemon grass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised

  • 6

    star anise pods

  • 1

    cinnamon stick

  • 3

    pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch chunks

  • 4

    cups or one 33-fluid ounce container unsweetened coconut water (see headnote)

  • 2

    cups low-sodium beef broth

  • 4

    medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces

  • 2

    tablespoons fish sauce

  • 2

    tablespoons lime juice, plus lime wedges to serve

  • Thinly sliced white onion, to serve

  • Fresh cilantro and/or basil, to serve

Directions

Vietnamese Beef Stew with Star Anise and Lemon Grass (Bò Kho)

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Reviews
elizabeth b.
October 31, 2022
Delicious
I’m not a fan of typical beef stew, but this won me over completely. For the chili garlic sauce I used Tân Tân Mom’s Hot Chili Sauce, a Vietnamese style sauce which nicely mirrored the spices in the stew. I also added half a cabbage with the carrots to make it more nutritious. Very good!
Joanna W.
August 21, 2022
Great taste of Vietnam
Really enjoyed this one. Easy delicious and interesting
Jonathan G.

Come on, man. I click on the chili-garlic paste hyperlink and expect to see a recipe and you send me to your Sichuan chili oil? You are better than that, Chris.

Eileen H.

Made this tonight. Flavors were outstanding. More liquidy than a typical stew so serve with brown rice. Family loved - I’ll defeinitely make again.

Daniel K.

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Kristine M.

I cooked this through step 4 yesterday. I skimmed off the rest of the solidified fat before proceeding today. Reheated and finished up this afternoon. Served it over rice stick noodles as suggested. Not difficult and really tasty and satisfying.

Patricia G.

Does anyone have a suggestion for how long you would cook this in a slow cooker? At what point would you add the carrots?

Maryellen S.

This stew was fantastic! The broth tasted as good as our favorite Vietnamese restaurant’s. I adapted the recipe for the instant pot and it tasted great. Definitely use the rice stick noodles.

Jenny C.

This was fantastic! Only modification I did was use the marinade from the NYT version . It was great over rice, or as a kind of Bahn Mi filling. Loved it!

Deirdre C.

I will never make traditional stew again. The flavor was so rich and satisfying while the broth was actually light; a wonderful combination.

Ilene J.

This was delicious, but it had too much liquid. Next time, I will reduce or eliminate the beef broth for a thicker sauce. I served over Jasmine rice which was perfect.

stephanie e.

Loved the rich flavor of the broth, tender meat and fresh herbs on top. Rice noodles were great with it. Little hands on effort for tons of flavor! Looking forward to leftovers tomorrow!

James H.

My asian market was out of lemongrass so I substitued with lemongrass paste in the tube. Not sure how this changed the flavor. One of my favorite recipes. Amazing recipe

David E.

I've never heard of lemongrass paste. Was it any good? The flavor of our dried stalks (however pounded) in the U.S. is pretty elusive and I'm open to other preparations.

Sue E.

I bought lemongrass paste from Milk St’s store. How much paste would be equivalent to a stalk???

Lynn C.

Hi Sue -

You can start with substituting 2 teaspoons paste per stalk. If you find you want more, you can add it with the chili-garlic sauce at the end.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Nelida S.

Love this recipe! Made it twice and each time it was a hit with family. Definitely add fresh Thai basil when serving

Anna M.

What can I substitute for the fish sauce at the end? As someone who keeps kosher, we do not mix fish sauce with meat. Thanks!

Lynn C.

Hi Anna -

There isn't a great, quick substitute for fish sauce since it's flavor is so unique. You can try making a vegan "fish sauce." See recipe here - https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-vegan-fish-sauce-130535. This will keep for about a month in the fridge so you can continue to use it. Otherwise you can finish with some soy sauce, but it will not have anywhere near the same flavor profile.

Best,
The Milk Street Team