Bo Kho is a spicy and flavorful Vietnamese beef stew that makes for a pretty epic bowl of noodle soup when you’ve maybe had your fill of pho or are looking for something a little different.
A Tasty, Complex Vietnamese Recipe
I’ve had Bo Kho at only a couple of places over the years, and they’ve been pretty wide-ranging in terms of quality. My favorite place to eat it is in the middle of New Jersey in the cafeteria of a Chinese grocery.
You fork over $7.50, and just a few minutes later, you’re enjoying a big bowl of spicy beef broth with braised carrots, rice noodles, and plenty of crunchy onion and cilantro over the top. After a tough (read: mind numbing) day at Saturday Chinese school there was nothing better!
It’s one of those dishes that seems simple—spicy beef soup, right?—but that you know must be more complex given how flavorful and delicious it is when you’re enjoying the best possible version of it.
And, indeed, Bo Kho is flavored with chili, five-spice, fish sauce, lemongrass, plenty of garlic, and tomato. Its familiar red color comes from the addition of fragrant annatto. You can use or make annatto oil if you can get your hands on it, but for this recipe, I’ve used ground annatto powder and my homemade chili oil to get that spicy flavor.
Stew or Soup?
Bo Kho at its most basic is considered a “beef stew,” given it can be prepared as a soup or a thicker stew, but to me, I always consider it more of a soup. It can also be served with rice or French bread, but we like it served with noodles!
You can use rice noodles (“rice sticks” if you’re familiar with Vietnamese restaurant parlance) or egg noodles, too, if that’s your preference!
Bho Ko: recipe Instructions
Next, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the stalks of lemongrass and allow them to infuse the oil for 1 minute. Next, add the minced lemongrass and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the onions and cook until translucent.
Then add all of the beef to the pot, and brown evenly on all sides.
Add the tomato paste.
Stir and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the water, coconut water, star anise, ground black pepper, chili powder, ground annatto, and paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
To serve, remove the large lemongrass stalks and any star anise pods you can fish out. Cook your wide rice noodles or egg noodles per package instructions, transfer to bowls, and ladle the soup over the top.
Try this delicious Bo Kho recipe. It’s an awesome Spicy Vietnamese Beef Stew Noodle Soup!