Vietnamese comfort food.

No, I’m not talking about pho. I’m talking about the next best thing that’s probably second to pho. I’m talking about bo kho.

For those who don’t know, bo kho is basically a Vietnamese beef stew. It’s made with beef shank, tendon, oxtail, brisket, beef chuck or other types of cuts for stewing meat and traditionally eaten with a French baguette. Having that crusty French bread to soak up all the delicious sauce is good and all, but I prefer mine with pho noodles.

I had originally intended to make this in the slow cooker/crock pot — set it and forget it, right? But things didn’t work out entirely in my favour and I ended up doing this all on the stove. Still a one-pot meal but still.

This was a little tricky. You see, I’ve read probably about six to seven recipes on bo kho, each of them listing different string of ingredients, cut of meats, and cooking techniques.  So I pretty much took what ingredients I had on hand and took each recipe into consideration and created my own version bo kho. I am listing everything that I used on my first try. All of the things I would change the next time I cook this are listed at the bottom. Don’t be too alarmed by the amount of ingredients — this recipe is totally worth it! Just prep everything, saute, boil and simmer. The simmering is the longest part but you can do whatever you want to while it’s cooking on the stove.

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Bo kho
What you’ll need:
– 1 package banh pho/rice stick noodles
– 1 tbsp ghee, or vegetable oil
– 2.5 lbs beef shank, sinewy parts and cartilege removed, chopped into 1″ pieces
– 2 stalks lemongrass, stems bruised and cut into 3 pieces each
– 2 tsps aniseed
– 2 tsps Chinese 5-spice
– 2 tsps madras curry spice
– 1/2 tsp whole cloves
– 1 tsp paprika
– 3 tbsp fish sauce
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 1″ knob ginger, sliced
– 2 bay leaves
– 1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste)
– Water
– 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
– 1 large onion, cut into half and sliced
– Fresh cilantro (optional)

What you’ll need to do:
1. Boil a pot of water and cook pho noodles as directed on the package. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat ghee or vegetable oil in a large pot/saucepan and brown meat in pan. Add all ingredients listed before “water” and saute for five minutes.
3. Add just enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil and let boil for 30 minutes.
4. Do a taste test add more shots of fish sauce, sugar, or water to your taste (I added 4 cups more of water).  Decrease heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hours or until meat is fork-tender.
5. Serve on top of pho noodles and garnish with fresh cilantro. Makes 8 servings.

Things I would have done differently:
– Beef shank is very sinewy. All that sinewy crap becomes chewy when cooked so it’s best to remove all or most of it before cooking. Try and get your butcher to do this if you can as it is very time-consuming (atleast for me it was). If you’re lazy, just use beef chuck — so much easier!
– Substitute 3 star anise pods for aniseed — better flavour.
– Next time, I would definitely marinate the meat with all the ingredients before “tomato paste”. Still tasted amazing though.
– Saw a few recipes using crushed tomatoes. Will definitely try that next time!
– Crockpot. ‘Nuff said.

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