Sunday is my cooking day as I prepare the family meals in advance for the next two days. Our household become quite chaotic come every Mondays and Tuesdays as I go to my part time work. It’s a frantic rush to drop the kids at childcare and then try to get to work at a decent time, and a frantic rush to pick them up at the end of the day. The madness continues once we arrive home as I try to bathe and feed two restless kids by myself. By about this time they are usually very whiney and needy, one would be hanging off my hip while the other pulling me by the leg. Most days I’m at melting point by early evening and anxiously waiting for Dave to walk through the door to rescue me. Thank goodness not every day is like this as I have a good family support to help me look after the girls. Some times I wonder how other full time working mums are so organised with their families with no help at all. They really are Super Mums!
Vietnamese beef stew is something I love to make on Sundays as I can get several meals out of it. Don’t be decieved as this beef stew is not your typical stew; it’s more of a soup. It’s a french influenced dish but everything about it is Vietnamese. This beef stew has a deep red colour and is rich in spices (star anise, cinnamon and Chinese 5 spices). The red colour is from annatto seeds. These days you can get already mixed spices for making Bò Kho which also has annatto seeds in it.
This Vietnamese beef stew is bursting with flavours. Apart from all the spices, there’s lemon grass, ginger, garlic and onion adding to the flavours and aromas. I also love the soft gooey beef tendons in this dish. The difficult task is deciding whether to serve this stew with rice noodles or to dip crusty Vietnamese bread in it. We like it both ways.
1 kg beef shanks
400g beef tendon
3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 tablespoon annatto seeds
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 litres of water
3 star anise
3 lemon grass stalks, bruised the white part
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoon annatto seeds
4 tablespoon oil
Vietnamese basil leaves
2 tablespoon Chinese 5 spices
3 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon minced ginger
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Cut the beef shanks in chunks 1½ -inch chunks. In a large bowl, combine the beef shanks, fish sauce, sugar, Chinese 5 spices, ginger and garlic. Mix well to evenly coat the beef and set aside for 30 minutes (can cover and refrigerate).
Meanwhile, clean the tendon and remove any thick layer of cartilage. In a medium-sized saucepan boil the tendon on medium heat for at about 1.5 hours or until soft. If you have a pressure cooker you can use this to reduce cooking time.
In a small fry pan, add 2 tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoon of annatto seeds. Continuously to stir until the oil turns red. Discard the seeds and reserve the oil.
To cook the stew, in a large pot, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Fry the onions and garlic until fragrant. Add the beef, ginger and lemon grass. Give the beef and good stir and let cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the water to the pot, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1.5 hours, or until the beef is tender.
Add the carrots and return the stew to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes or until the carrots and beef are soft. If the stew is too chunky then you can add a bit more water, or if it’s too watery then you can simmer longer. Do a taste test by adding more fish sauce or salt if necessary.
Once the stew is ready pour in the annatto oil then turn off the heat. Discard the lemon grass, star anise and cinnamon. Serve with rice noodles or bread and garnish stew with coriander and basil.