Tommy Pham’s Bò Kho

There’s a reason why my son Miles will eat bowls and bowls of this – you just can’t beat a bowl of juicy, melt-in-your-mouth beef in a thick and flavoursome sauce. You just can’t.

Tommy says…

I grew up eating bò kho, and my children are growing up eating bò kho. I hope that they think back to their childhood and remember the warmth and love a bowl of bò kho feels like on a cold winter’s day.

Bò kho is a simple beef stew, but it also has layers of my heritage within it, and it reminds me of my roots. Bò kho’s foundation has the usual suspects of a beef stew: beef, onions, garlic, tomato and stock. But then comes my favourite part – the part that reminds me of who I am – the Vietnamese ingredients. Dry spices like star anise, cinnamon, cloves and Chinese five spice are added to give a hum of heat. Lemongrass is added for a fragrant and fresh flavour that cuts through the heavy beef. To finish, the most important Vietnamese ingredient: fish sauce, an umami, salty liquid that just makes everything taste better. Add either some noodles or a crusty Vietnamese baguette to mop up all that goodness, and you’ve got yourself a winner!

If I were to think about why this recipe really feels like home to me, it would be because it represents who I am as a Vietnamese Australian. At a glance, it’s a simple beef stew, but when you delve in, you see all the Vietnamese influences that make it so special. I’m an Australian, but it’s my Vietnamese heritage that makes me special. And I hope that, one day, my children will be able to realise this too.

Serves 2 adults and 2 littlies
1kg beef brisket, cut into large cubes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
3 teaspoons fish sauce
1 stick cinnamon
1 black cardamom pod (optional)
3 pieces star anise
½ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 brown onions, peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 litres beef stock, plus 500ml (optional if you are serving with noodles)
2 large stalks lemongrass, halved and sliced lengthwise
3–4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3cm slices
4 tablespoons cornflour
6 tablespoons cold water
6 Vietnamese baguettes or 1 packet fresh egg noodles cooked per packet instructions

To garnish
Thai basil
Garlic chives

Place the beef in a large bowl. To make the marinade, combine the sugar, salt, five spice, oil and 1 teaspoon of the fish sauce in a bowl and pour over the beef. Mix well to ensure all the beef is covered. Cover the beef and set aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (up to 5 hours if you have the time – the longer you leave it, the more flavourful it becomes).

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, cloves and fennel seeds. Microwave for 30 seconds, then transfer the mixture to a ball strainer or muslin cloth. Tie the muslin cloth to make a spice ball.

Add a little oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 3–5 minutes or until soft.

Add the marinated beef to the pot and cook, searing the edges until the meat is browned all over.

Add the tomato paste, 2 litres stock, lemongrass and spice ball to the pot, then cover and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes.

Add the carrot to the pot, cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until the carrot and beef are tender.

Remove the lemongrass and spice ball and discard.

Mix the cornflour with the cold water and pour into the pot. Cook for 2 minutes or until the stock is thick, then season with the remaining 2 teaspoons of fish sauce.

Garnish with the basil and garlic chives and enjoy with some crusty Vietnamese baguettes or fresh egg noodles!

Tommy’s Tip: If you’re serving the stew with egg noodles, you will need to add the extra 500ml of beef stock to the stew to loosen it for a slurpable experience.


Published in ed#690