Friday, April 27, 2012

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Beef Stew with Rice Noodles


You’re looking at a hot bowl of Vietnamese beef stew, bo kho, with rice noodles, glistening by the kitchen window.


Earlier this week, it began with some spare ribs, this spice blend (made of paprika, star anise, garlic, chili, onion, ginger and cloves), lemongrass, star anise, cloves, fish sauce, onions, garlic and water.


Everything simmered together in a pot for about three hours. Carrots were added afterwards. Chunks of daikon and beef tendons were cooked separately from the pot of bo kho before they finished cooking in the bo kho.


While some people like to eat carrots and daikon when they become an over-cooked mush, I like them before they get to that point. And so I fished out the carrots, daikon, and all of the beef tendons into a smaller pot.



When the pot of bo kho was simmering away, two packages of wide rice noodles were soaked in cool water. It only took an hour for the noodles to soften up and turn opaque (see photo above). This quickens the cooking process and gives the noodles a great texture. We like using the rose brand and elephant one because they don't break apart easily when you eat them.


The stew was seasoned with Chinese chicken bouillon powder, sugar, and salt. Not much was needed though. A slurry of flour and room temperature bo kho was stirred into the pot to tighten up the stew. There was quite a bit of oil floating over the stew. Solution? Give the top of the soup a few gentle swirls with a ladle and scoop out the bo kho.


When we were ready to eat, a pot of water was boiled to cook the rice noodles, and the pot of bo kho was heated to a gentle simmer. The soaked rice noodles didn’t need more than ten seconds in the boiling water. In our family, we put together our own bowls because we all have different tastes. Being super picky has nothing to do with it.

The rice noodles were cooked first. I like to cook mine for, literally, two seconds and then press the cooked rice noodles with the back of the ladle to drain excess water. By doing this, you'll prevent watering the stew (or soup) down. Some beef tendons, carrots, daikon, and chunks of tender beef topped the rice noodles.


Ladles of bo kho and a sprinkle of cilantro completed the bowl.


Andrew’s bowl had a little bit of everything; beef, daikon, carrots, beef tendon, onions, garlic, and cilantro. It looks like he had too much noodles.


The Vietnamese beef stew wasn’t thick enough to earn the name stew, but it was fine when we ate it with rice noodles. If we ate it with bread, the bo kho needed to be much thicker. The flavour was so complex. With each bite, flavour waves of coves, anise, lemon grass, ginger, beefy richness and bright cilantro greeted our taste buds. It was beautiful.


Me: The beef and vegetables were so tender...

You: How tender was it?

Me: They were so tender that you can eat it without using dentures. Ang!

Instead of eating it with rice noodles, she was in the mood to mop up all the bo kho with some bread. If we had loaves of french bread, I would’ve probably had two small bowls of bo kho. Mmm... french bread.


Regardless of how the bo kho was eaten, everyone happily slurped their bo kho away. Only empty spice-speckled bowls and spoons remained.

We had a bit left over. Most of the fat was skimmed off before the bo kho was reheated for breakfast. It was my kind of breakfast. What a great way to start off a day!

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