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Vietnamese Beef Stew with Star Anise and Lemon Grass (Bò Kho)
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.
tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
01In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until well browned and beginning to stick to the pot, about 1 minute. Stir in the chili-garlic sauce, then add the lemon grass, star anise, cinnamon and beef, then stir to coat. Add the coconut water and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then reduce to medium-low and cook, uncovered and without stirring, for about 4 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a simmer.
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