I have fond memories of my grandma’s aromatic Vietnamese beef stew which echoed the fragrant notes of Phở bò (Beef noodle soup); namely the aroma of star anise, cinnamon and cloves. Pre-packaged Bò kho paste or spice mix are readily available at most Asian supermarkets. I prefer to use both in tandem to create the ideal flavour profile.
As a first generation immigrant living in Australia in the 90s, my grandma utilised cuts of meat that were accessible and affordable- namely secondary cuts and offal. Decades on, I have taken on inspiration from her cooking and experimented with various cuts of beef for bò kho.
Eventually I found the perfect assortment of protein: Ox tail, beef short ribs, beef tripe & beef tendon. Ox tail and beef short ribs not only provide another layer of depth to the stew but leaves behind collateral beauty in the form of succulent and tender meat. Slow cooked beef tripe and beef tendon is optional for texture, tripe becomes soft with a slight chew and the tendon is soft and gelatinous.
Mushrooms aren’t traditional in a bò kho. Further, pine mushrooms are foreign to Vietnamese cuisine. However, in Australia when pine mushrooms are in season, they quickly become a temporary commodity. When a good friend of mine dropped off a generous batch of pine mushrooms he harvested in the Macedon ranges, it triggered a light bulb moment. Going against the grain and slow cooking these mushrooms, unlike most mushrooms, they held their firm texture throughout the slow cooking process whilst absorbing the deep flavours of the stew. On the experimental front, I’ve also used them in congee but that’s a work in progress, back to the bò kho.
Bò kho can be served with crusty bread, noodles or rice. I prefer egg noodles generously dressed with the slightly thick bò kho gravy and garnished with Thai basil, bean sprouts, saw tooth coriander, plenty of garlic chives, chilli and a gentle squeeze of lime.
Bò kho is such a versatile meal, a winter warmer or a summer snack so, grab yourself some Vietnamese bread rolls, baguettes, Chinese donuts, rice or noodles then try this recipe out. If slow beef braises do it for you, do yourself a favour, for flavour!
1.2 kg ox tail or beef brisket
1.2kg beef short ribs cut in large chunks
500g beef tendons
500g honeycomb tripe
1 tablespoon gia vị bò kho paste
3 tablespoon gia vị bò kho powder
2 stalks lemongrass
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
600g pine mushrooms (large slices)
3 Thai shallots
3 star anise
15g cassia bark
4L chicken stock or Water
1 young coconut (water only)
10g mandarin peel
50 ml passata
1 daikon radish
20 ml cooking oil
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chicken powder/½ tablespoon anchovy salt
4 tablespoons potato starch
1kg egg noodles
Add oil, star anise and cassia bark to a large casserole pot and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove the spices to avoid them from burning.
Sear meat in batches on high then remove
Add garlic, Thai shallots and ginger and fry for 2 minutes or until golden
Return meat and add tripe, tendons and remains of the marinade
Add passata, an additional tablespoon of gia vị Bò Kho paste and stir well.
Add chicken broth, young coconut water, mandarin peel, pine mushrooms, chicken powder and bring to the boil then simmer covered.
After 2 hours of simmering, add carrots and daikon and simmer uncovered for a further hour
Season to taste with salt and pepper then thicken the stew with a few tablespoons of potato starch water at a time until a gravy like consistency is achieved.
Ladle onto boiled fresh egg noodles and garnish with coriander/saw tooth coriander, bean sprouts, garlic chives and enjoy! For the ultimate experience, have a side of Chinese donuts or Vietnamese bread rolls to clean up the remains of the gravy.