Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)


2 pounds beef chuck (bắp vai bò), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks

2 pounds beef flank (nạm), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks

2 pounds beef shank (bò bắp), cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks

16 cups or 4 quarts of water

6 lemongrass stalks

 1 large piece of ginger root

6 shallots  

3 garlic heads

9 star anise

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

9 tablespoons fish sauce

6 tablespoons soy sauce

6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoons chili flakes, optional
2 tablespoons Annatto Seeds, for annatto oil
1/2 cup oil, for annatto oil
12 carrots, cut into big chunks
3 sweet onions, cut into big chunks
A handful of basil leaves, for the broth
a bunch of cilantro, for garnish



Bring a pot of water and 3/4 of lemongrass to a boil.


Making Annatto Oil

Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a sauce pan over low heat for about 2-3 minutes. As the temperature rises, the red color will leach from the annatto seeds. Let it cool down for a few minutes, then strain and discard seeds. Store it in a jar for later use.


Toasting Star Anise

Place star anise in a small pan over medium low heat. Toast until fragrant.  Set aside. 


Preparing Shallots, Garlics, Ginger Roots,  Lemongrass

Lemongrass - lightly crushed with a meat tenderize or the flat side of a knife, cut each into 3 pieces.

Shallots and Garlic - mince. Split shallots and garlic in half.  You will use half of shallots and garlic for sauteing the beef and the other half to make the curry paste.  

Ginger Root cut into fine strips.  Make about 6 tablespoons.


Sauteing Beef

Divide the meat into 3 batches if your skillet isn't large enough for one batch. Heat a tablespoon of annatto oil in a skillet. Add ginger, garlic and shallots and stir until slightly golden brown. Add the beef and stir until seared. 

Transfer seared meat into the boiling water pot. Add toasted star anise, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 1.5 hours or until the beef is tender. 


Making Curry Paste

Heat about 1/4 cup  annatto oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the remaining shallots, garlic and stir until fragrant and slightly golden brown.

Add curry powder and chili flakes and stir for a few seconds until well blended. If you can’t take spiciness, decrease the amount of chili flakes or omit it.  Set aside.


Simmering Stew

Thirty minutes before the beef is done, remove the star anise.  Add the remaining lemongrass, carrots, and onion.

Cook until carrots are tender.  Add the curry paste and toss in the basil leaves. Cook for another 5 minutes.  Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, fish sauce, or sugar if necessary.


Making Beef Stew Pot Pie 

In an oven safe bowl, add 2/3 bowl of beef stew. Place the puff pastry sheet over the top of the dish.

Brush the top with egg wash (1 egg + 1 teaspoon water or milk) and place in oven at the middle rack. Bake at 350° until pastry puffs turn golden, about 15 minutes.



Ladle beef stew in a shadow soup bowl. Garnish with cilantro and fresh basil leaves. Serve with toasted bread or noodle. Serve with salt, fresh black pepper, and lime dipping sauce for beef cubes.