Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo' Kho)

Total Time
Prep 30 mins
Cook 2 hrs 30 mins

My mom and dad make this dish in the winter a lot. Every time they do, the whole house smells wonderful. One time my mom came to visit me in boarding school in England. She cooked one pot, I ate for a whole week and got on the black list of all Asians in school. It taste good steaming hot with French bread, and also very good in sandwiches. Some ingredients are available at normal grocery stores. You can get star anise and Thai Basil at Asian stores, natural food stores

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Mix lemongrass, fish sauce, 5-spice powder, ginger, brown sugar and bay leaf, marinate the beef for 30 minutes.
  2. Over high heat, heat oil in a heavy-bottemed 5-quart pot, sear the beef quickly then remove, reserve lemongrass and bay leaf for later use.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, cook onions till translucent (5 minutes), then add tomato and cook with lid on for another 12-15 minutes.
  4. If sauce is too thick, add a bit of water.
  5. Add back the beef, lemongrass, bay leaf and star anise, cook uncovered for 5 minutes then add water.
  6. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  7. Add carrots and simmer for another 45 minutes until beef and carrots are tender.
  8. Remove bay leaf, lemongrass and star anise before serving with cilantro and Thai basil.
  9. Taste great with steam rice or French bread.
Most Helpful

I made this for my husband (whos Vietnamese) when he said he felt like Vietnamese but didnt want to go out. The first time I made it I didnt have any lemongrass, so I put in the zest of 1 lemon. Everyone, including our 3 and 4 year olds ate seconds. The left overs were better the next day and he was told by a co-worker that it tasted like the Bo Kho his mom made back in Vietnam. Will be making it for Christmas at his brothers.

KacerPie December 20, 2008

I made this recipe with several variations: 1. I substituted palm sugar for the brown sugar; 2. I used 2 stalks of lemongrass instead of 1; 3. I added approx. 1 tsp annatto powder when adding the beef back into the tomato sauce (I saw a few recipes that suggested the addition of annatto oil . . . ); 4. I used 3 star anise instead of 2; 5. I added some additional slices of ginger (approx. 7 slices) when adding the beef back into the tomato sauce; 6. I substituted beef stock for the water; 7. I let the beef simmer on low for about 2 hours; 8. I added 2 russet potatoes, chopped, when adding the carrots; and 9. near the end I added 1/2 a packet of powdered gelatin, bloomed, to thicken the broth - the traditional versions of this recipe call for cuts of meat that have more collagen (shank, tendon, etc.) which gives the broth more body, and the addition of the gelatin here helps with that. I served this with thai basil, lime wedges, and baguette. Love the recipe :)

Maryam B. November 20, 2015

Thanks for a great recipe. It worked for the entire family so I will definitely be cooking this again during the cold winter months in Sydney. I was cautious with the Chinese 5-spice powder as it can be overpowering but it turned out just fine. I agree with one of the reviewer that it was a bit finicky picking out the broken pieces of star anise so I would suggest using a herb bag made of muslin (can be bought at Asian stores). I won't forget to use it next time. Never one to do anything in small proportions (my 19 year old son has a bottomless pit!), I actually doubled the recipe and it was perfect. Best to do it the day before you eat it as the flavours develop further in the fridge. Yummy and thank you!

suziwombat May 16, 2013