Rich Report Wants You To Try This: A Vietnamese Beef Stew Full of Umami-Packed Flavor

Rich Report Wants You To Try This: A Vietnamese Beef Stew Full of Umami-Packed Flavor
Courtesy of The Kitchn‍

It is based on the recipe that his mother gave him.

It's Lunar New Year on February 1, but why not start celebrating the Year of the Tiger this weekend with a braised beef recipe from the creator of the Red Boat Fish Sauce, Bo Kho. After discovering the lack of a delicious fish sauce in the food that he was so fond of in his youth, Cuong Pham began making it in 2011, when he realized that it was what was missing from the food he loved so much as a child. 

He recently wrote a cookbook in collaboration with renowned chef Diep Tran as well as acclaimed writer Tien Nguyen. The cookbook features classic Vietnamese recipes as well as recipes that showcase fish sauce in dishes such as spaghetti and marinara.

It is adapted from my mother's bò kho recipe, which was a Vietnamese classic. As you can see, her recipes for both bò kho and cà ri gà chicken curry are on the same page in her recipe book, and there is something so fitting about that. In their own way, both are comforting and homey Vietnamese classics. A stew like cà ri gà is based on chicken, but bo kho is a beefy dish with a rich, glossy broth that is warm and fragrant with spices, robust and hearty.

There was a time when my mom made this dish frequently, and we would eat it with a baguette, usually a banh mi, ripping off crusty wedges and pushing them into our bowls to soak up the liquid. At the end of the meal, a confetti of bread crumbs was amidst the confetti of bread crumbs on the table. That's part of the fun of bò kho, but if you prefer, you can serve it with rice or rice noodles as well.

Bò Kho (Beef Stew)

Courtesy of Pinterest

Spice Blend

  • .5 tsp. ground white pepper
  • .5 tsp. ground coriander
  • .5 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. five-spice powder
  • .25 tsp. ground paprika


  • 3 pounds rough flank, boneless short rib, or brisket, cut into 1.5-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp. Annatto Oil


  • 3 c. diced white onion, diced into 1.5-inch cubes
  • .5 c. minced lemongrass
  • 1 c. minced shallot
  • .25 c. minced garlic
  • 1 c. sliced scallions, green tops and white root separated
  • 2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • .25 c. Red Boat Fish Sauce, divided
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 qt. coconut water
  • 1 tbsp. rock sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 c. chopped cilantro

The spices for the spice blend should be combined in a small bowl and then stirred until well combined. Set aside for later use.

You will need to place the cubed beef, salt and 1 tablespoon of annatto oil in a large mixing bowl. Mix to coat the beef evenly with the annatto oil.

As soon as a few droplets of water are sprinkled into a large Dutch oven, they will evaporate immediately and you can begin searing the beef. Arrange the beef in batches so as not to crowd the pot as you go, and sear it on all sides before transferring it to a bowl and putting it aside.

Adding the remaining two tablespoons of annatto oil to the same pot on high heat will help to create the broth more quickly. Once the oil has been heated, add the diced onions to the broth first. Once the onions begin to brown and char in places, quickly fry them until they are ready. Set them aside in a mixing bowl, and strain or transfer them using a slotted spoon.

In the hot oil, add the spice blend. After frying the spices for about 30 seconds, add the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, and the white roots of the scallions, as well as ginger to the pan. Sauté the lemongrass and shallots for about five minutes, until they are aromatic. After sautéing for five minutes, add three tablespoons of fish sauce, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Stir once in a while.

In a piece of cheesecloth, bundle the star anise, cinnamon stick and bay leaves together, and then add them to the pot with the cheesecloth bundle.

As soon as the seared beef is added to the pot, the coconut water, rock sugar, and 2 cups of water should be brought to a boil. Once the mixture has come to a boil, skim off any impurities, then lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 4 hours. At that point, you can remove the cheesecloth.

In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 1 cup of water and set it aside for a couple minutes, then add the cornstarch mixture to the pot with the carrots. Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to low so that it simmers for about 10 minutes.

The stew is ready when the quick fry onions have been added. If desired, add an additional tbsp. of fish sauce before serving. Garnish with the scallion tops and cilantro if desired. We recommend serving with crusty bread, rice or noodles.

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