Friday, October 21, 2016

Bo Kho

Have you had Bo Kho? I grew up having it with French bread to dip in the spicy fragrant broth. Not hot spicy, but aromatic herbs spicy. You can make this as spicy hot as you like by adding more spicy chilies to it. This is a Vietnamese dish. I was very fortunate growing up that my parents had such a wonderful variety of friends. Their children in turn because good friends of mine. We would gather weekly for meals at someones house. Late late nights, as they shared stores. Some of the country they left behind to come America for. Other times to sing Karaoke until early morning. And they were always "Auntie" or "Uncle" if not
"Mama" or "Papa" so and so. I didn't so much understand it all, and maybe as a first generation American I can't fully grasp that kind of fellowship and friendship based upon the result of war. I didn't even always appreciate it. But looking back, those cultivated friendships and closeness truly enriched our lives.
Bo Kho is one of those dishes that reminds me of those times. My mom would make it, but so would a close Vietnamese friend of hers. One who I called "Ma", which was mom. The beef is tender, often times here would be tendon or ox tail. It would take hours and hours. In the Instant Pot, or a pressure cooker it doesn't take long at all.  I use an Instant Pot, so the recipe that follows has only been tested on an Instant Pot.

Here is the method, the recipe follows.
Tender marinated beef make this a flavorful stew. 
The beef for Bo Kho really benifits from a long marinade, up to 24 hours. The great thing about this is you can prepare several batches with the marinade and keep them in the freezer. The night or two before you want to prepare Bo Kho, you can just pull one of the bags out and let it thaw in the fridge while marinating.

I keep lemongrass stalks in the freezer, along with ginger, galangal, kaffir leaves, and so much more. I love having these ingredients on hand to use. They can really make a dish, omitting them from some dishes would give you a totally different flavor

I always use my spice ball for spices that are whole and not meant to be eaten, just meant to steep. It's so much easier than fishing out each peppercorn before serving. This is great for families with little ones also.

All it takes is 35 minutes of cook time for this Bo Kho. If you add tendon, or use ox tail you may need to add more cook time.

Bo Kho

Beef and marinade 

3 pounds beef brisket or chuck roast trimmed and cut into 1.5"x1.5" cubes
2 tablespoons Lemongrass minced, about 2 three inch stalks (11 grams)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or ghee (16 grams)
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons Vietnamese Curry Powder (Madras) (11 grams)
3 cloves minced garlic (9 grams)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (3 grams)*

Bo Kho soup

1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil, bacon grease, or ghee for browning (16-32 grams)
3 ounces tomato paste- about three heaping tablespoons (83 grams)
2 cups of carrots cut into 1"x1" pieces (300 grams)
1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning (1 gram)
4 cups unsalted beef or chicken stock
1-2 cups coconut water (Substitute unsalted stock/broth, or use water if not available)
1 bay leaf
2 star anise
5 whole all spice berries
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns 
1 tablespoon grated ginger, or one slice (6 grams)
4 three inch stalks of lemongrass bruised (23 grams)

Optional: 1-2 tablespoons of Arrowroot, mixed with 1/4 cold water

Serve with

Chopped cilantro
Chopped holy basil
Slices of Baguette
Cooked bun/rice vermicelli noodles


  1. Place all ingredients for beef marinade in a bowl.
  2. Add beef pieces and stir well, coating all the pieces. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, overnight is better.

Freezer Tip: You can also place this marinade and raw beef into a freezer bag. When ready to use take the bag out of the freezer and thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

To make the soup

  1. Turn on the Instant Pot and heat the liner on saute mode HIGH.
  2. Once the pot reads HOT, add oil or ghee. 
  3. Once it starts to shimmer brown the meat in batches, removing each batch and setting it aside.
  4. Turn off the Instant Pot, add more oil and the tomato paste, stir and break up the tomato paste.
  5. Add carrots and stir well.
  6. Add one cup of stock to the pot and scrape off all the browned bits at the bottom of the liner.
  7. Return the beef to the pot, and stir.
  8. Place all of the whole spices in a spice ball or some cheese cloth. Put them in the pot.
  9. Add remaining liquids and lemongrass stalks. (Except the arrowroot.)
  10. Cover and set the Instant Pot for  STEW, NORMAL, 25 minutes.
  11. Once the Instant Pot is done cooking, let it naturally release pressure for 15 minutes.
  12. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and/or fish sauce. Discard whole spices.
  13. If using the Arrowroot, give it a quick stir with the water so there are no climbs and stir it into the stew. 
  14. Serve with chopped cilantro, chopped holy basil, along with slices of Baguette, or over rice vermicelli noodles.
* Bone in short ribs and beef tendon can also go in this dish, both require more cooking time though.
*2 Tablespoons of fish sauce can be substituted for the whole dish in place of salt
* If not using coconut water, add 1-2 cups more of stock or water
* You can also cook this in the slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low, Follow the recipe up to step ten on the stove top then transfer to a slow cooker, or use the Instant Pot slow cooker function on NORM or HIGH.

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