Food For Four

Bò Kho – Vietnamese Beef Stew

Posted on | March 1, 2010 | Recipes, Vietnamese Recipes | 7 Comments

Bo Kho

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.

Annatto Seeds

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.

Bo Kho Vietnamese Beef Stew

Bò Kho
Serves 6


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.

Vietnamese Beef Stew Bo Kho

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7 Responses to “Bò Kho – Vietnamese Beef Stew”

  1. ravenouscouple
    March 2nd, 2010 @ 3:14 am

    we just made this last weekend..just left the meat in the slow cooker night and voila! totally agree, about the tendons–a must!

  2. Katherinw
    March 2nd, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

    I like the intense red of the stew. The 1.5 hours would have made the meat soft and delicious. Perfect for a cold winters day. I love Vietnamese food. My favourite dish would have to be Thit Kho (I’m not sure if I spelt that correctly). I have my friends famly recipe and I cant wait to make it.

  3. Belle@OohLook
    March 3rd, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

    I just love your photographs, they’re so vibrant! The stew looks fantastic and flavoursome.

  4. Yen
    March 3rd, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

    Ravenouscouple: Slow cooker is a great idea and saves lots of time.

    Kathernw: You’re right it is “thit kho” and we have this quite often. My mum makes a very lean version without the fat. I can’t wait to see how your friend does it.

    Belle: Thanks for stopping by. This dish is full of flavours.

  5. Phuoc
    March 6th, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

    I love Bo Kho! Especially when you soak up the liquidy goodness with bread. Mmmm.. I also love it when the carrots are really soft and because they are left cooking for a long time they soak up the lovely flavour of the broth.

    Yen it looks really easy to make! Will keep the recipe in mind for next time. Thanks

  6. Trissa
    March 7th, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

    I can imagine what a flavoursome broth this dish would have! Thanks for sharing the recipe – I have bookmarked it

  7. flavorboulevard
    March 21st, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    For some reason this stew hardly ever appears on restaurant menus. It’s such an amazing thing! And your pictures really capture its vibrant taste!

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