Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

May 9, 2012 in Recipes

This gluten-free Vietnamese stew is becoming a regular in our dinner rotation, especially during the colder months. It’s something my mother cooked for the family while growing up and although my version of the stew may not be as authentic as mom’s, the kids seem to enjoy it and that’s good enough for me. The stew may be served with either white rice, a fresh baguette or rice vermicelli. Since noodles tend to be a big hit with Malaya and Mahal, we typically eat this with vermicelli, as pictured above.

For the spices, I use a pre-packaged Bho Kho spice blend (pictured below) from T&T supermarkets.  You could probably find it at other Vietnamese or Asian grocery stores as well. Using the spice blend is convenient and the fragrant combination of paprika, anise, garlic, chili, onion, ginger and cloves make for a flavourful and aromatic stew. I also add some lemon grass, along with fresh garlic and ginger to kick it up a notch (BAM!). I had some challenges determining the measurements of the ingredients, as I typically cook this stew by taste, rather than by measurements. That said, the measurements are approximations, so please feel free to deviate from my measurements and experiment with the recipe to suit your taste. Also, I find that this stew tastes best a day after it is made as the flavors intensify with time.



2 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 4 pieces
1 stalk of lemongrass, white end bruised and sliced into 4 inch sections
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup of Bo Kho spice blend
2 lbs. stewing beef cut in 1 inch cubes
3 to 4 beef bones or oxtail (optional)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 jalapeno, sliced (optional)
10 cups of water
1 tbsp. salt
Fish sauce, to taste

1 package of rice vermicelli

1 medium onion, sliced paper thin
1 bundle of green onions, sliced
1 small bunch of cilantro (stems and leaves), chopped

Sambal Oelek (garlic chili sauce), to taste
Bean sprouts
Lime wedges


  • Heat oil in large pot on medium to high heat. Once heated, add garlic, ginger and lemon grass and fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add stewing beef (and beef bones, if using) to pot and lightly brown on all sides.
  • While beef is browning, combine tomato paste and spice blend in a small bowl. Add blended paste and spices to pot and stir on medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until beef is coated with spices.
  • Add 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for approximately 1.5 to 2.5 hours or until beef is tender.
  • While stew is simmering, prepare the garnish by tossing the onion, green onions and cilantro in bowl until mixed.
  • Prepare rice vermicelli according to package instructions, ensuring not to overcook the noodles. Rinse in cold water.
  • Once the beef is tender, add salt, carrots and jalapeno (if using) to the stew. Cover and continue to simmer for 10 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  • Add fish sauce to stew to taste.


  • Divide desired amount of vermicelli to large soup bowls. Reheat noodles in microwave until warm.
  • Add about 1/4 cup of garnish on top of noodles.
  • Bring stew to a boil, then add desired amount of stew, beef and carrots to noodles.
  • Serve with accompaniments as desired.

Let us know how it works out for you or what modifications you made to the recipe. ENJOY!