Friday, 23 March 2012

Vietnamese Beef & Carrot Stew, or Bo Kho

Living out here in the boonies, there are very few interesting restaurants around. Amongst the many cuisines I used to eat in Toronto and Kitchener/Waterloo when I lived there, and can no longer get, is Vietnamese food. I remember this stew fondly though, and thought I'd have a crack at making it myself. Verdict: very good, and not hard to do at all, although it does require some advance planning because of the long marinating period. 

Like most stews, this isn't too quick to make but it is really quite easy. A few of the ingredients can be hard to get if you are not in a big city. Every recipe I've seen calls for lemon grass, but I can't get it here. What I did instead was put in a half dozen or so dried keffir lime leaves. I was able to get them last time I was in Toronto and unlike fresh herbs they will keep. I thought the results were very good, if not precisely authentic. 

4 servings
20 minutes prep time plus marinating time;
20 minutes prep time plus 1 hour cooking time or more

Make the Marinating Paste:
2 large shallots
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
a 1/2"x1"x3" piece of peeled ginger
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 tablespoon 5 spice powder

Peel and roughly chop the shallots. Peel the garlic. Peel and slice the ginger. Put all this into a food processor, and process to a fairly smooth paste.

Marinate the Beef:

500 grams (1 pound) stewing beef
1 stalk lemon grass
2 bay leaves
3-4 star anise pods

Mix the marinating paste into the beef, and add the lemon grass, cut into 2" pieces, the bay leaves and the anise pods. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours to overnight.

Make the Stew:
500 grams (1 pound) carrots
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil 
4 cups crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
 thai basil or coriander sprigs, bean sprouts

Peel the carrots and cut them into bite sized pieces. Put them in a pot with a 2 cups of water, and bring them to a boil. Boil gently until just tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the beef, with the marinade mostly scraped off (but kept) and spread it out well. Brown on both sides, then add the remaining marinade and cook for a minute or two longer.

Put the beef and marinade into a large stewing pot with the tomatoes. Add the sugar. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for about 1 hour, adding the carrots and their cooking water as soon as they are ready. This should be a fairly soupy stew, so add a little more water if you feel it needs it. Like most stews, this is best prepared in advance and then reheated. Even allowing it to cool for an hour before reheating will make the beef much more tender.

Serve the stew with bread, or over rice or noodles. Garnish with chopped fresh basil or coriander, and bean sprouts if desired.


Amanda said...

Thanks for the recipe. I made it tonight and it was amazing!

Jerry said...

How I miss Vietnamese food! And Korean, and Thai, and… Food and food shopping (St. Lawrence market, Chinatown, etc.) is one thing I really miss here in South Western Ontario boondocks. Oh well, at least I get to cook it more often. Thanks for the recipe, I love this stew.

Janet said...

I tried your recipe yesterday - It simmered all day in the crockpot - it was delicious !! A keeper ! Thanks for sharing !