What is bo kho?
The Vietnamese dish, bo kho (pronounced “bo ko”) is a slow-cooked beef stew. Diced beef is stewed with pieces of carrot in a beef broth; this can take a few hours or an entire night. This warming, spicy dish, peppered with a light, citrusy note thanks to lemongrass, is a popular food on cold days.
In Vietnam, bo kho is the ultimate breakfast dish. Nothing is more enticing to the Vietnamese than waking up to the scent of lemongrass, ginger, star anise and cinnamon. Bo kho is usually served in the morning with French bread, though the dish is also eaten at other times of the day. Bo kho is often made in large quantities and can also be served with rice noodles (hu tieu bo kho) or rice.
The amount of herbs and spices in bo kho is exceptional in Vietnamese cuisine. Compared with beef dishes, such as pho and bun bo nam bo, bo kho has a more earthy aroma and a richer taste. The dish is reminiscent of Indian, Indonesian or Malay cuisine.
How to make bo kho
The cuts of beef (bo) for this stew come from the shin, flank or lower rib, which are good for a tasty stew. It is cubed, seared and then cooked with pieces of carrot and various seasonings – a spicy mixture of garlic, curry powder, lemongrass, chilli powder, star anise, cinnamon and cloves – until done. Annatto oil (oil containing the orange-red seeds of the annatto tree) provides the typical red colour.
The aromatic herbs and extras that are often served with bo kho are basil, coriander, lime, pepper and pickled onion. This allows you to personalise your meal according to taste. Bo kho is usually served with a Vietnamese baguette to dip into the broth, noodles or a bowl of rice.
How to eat
Bo kho is eaten with chopsticks and a spoon. First, flavour your stew with the extra seasoning that comes with it: Lime, chilli and pepper, then add herbs and eat with bread, noodles or rice.
Have you been charmed by the Vietnamese baguette that came with the bo kho? Then try the Vietnamese sandwich dish, banh mi.