“Home is wherever this lemongrass-scented beef stew is.”
Bo kho – a Vietnamese-style famous beef stew, is a fine example of the balance brought by the profuse usage of spices and fresh herbs. This bowlful of beef stew with its mouthwatering fragrance and savory stock is the perfect gateway into the Vietnamese culinary world. Here is an all-you-need-to-know: how to cook it and where to find the best bo kho in Saigon!
How To Cook Bo Kho
Bo kho comes in many versions as the recipe varies from region to region. But personally, the southern take is the most vibrant and flavorful. People often eat bo kho with crisp baguettes, rice or flat rice noodles, and usually a touch of lime juice, making the dish all the more delightful.
The needed ingredients are:
- 600g of beef shank
- 400g of carrots
- White wine
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mix with water (a thickening agent)
- Thai basil leaves, long coriander, rice paddy herb
- 3 stalks of lemongrass
- 3 whole star anise
- ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon powder or a stalk of cinnamon
- Ginger, 1 tablespoon of minced onion, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
- Coconut juice
- Annatto seed oil or other neutral oil
- Curry powder
- Sugar, salt, pepper, and Chinese five-spice powder
Prepare the beef. Mince the ginger and mix it with some white wine, then rub this mixture on the beef. Let it sit for about five minutes until it smells more neutral. Rinse well with warm water and cut into 1½-inch chunks.
Rinse the carrot, peel and cut into 1-inch chunks. In a bowl, combine the beef, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of Annatto seed oil, 2 teaspoons of curry powder, and 1 teaspoon of Chinese five-spice powder. Mix well to evenly coat. Set aside to marinate at least an hour or two.
In a pot, heat the oil and sauté the minced onion, garlic and ginger. Pour the beef mixture in and stir-fry for a bit.Then add some coconut juice until the beef is fully soaked. Finally, add in the lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon powder.
Bring the beef to a boil. Make sure your remove the fat that surfaces. Lower heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 35 minutes. Make sure to taste it while it boils and add more salt to intensify flavor, or pour in some water to lighten the flavor.Notice: If you want you can add cornstarch mixture in this step to thicken your pot of bo kho.
Simmer until the beef is soft and tender (close to being done), then add the carrots, adjusting heat if needed. Cook the beef uncovered, until both the carrots and beef become tender. Before serving, remove lemongrass and star anise. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with herbs.
And there you have it! A bo kho which is rich looking, very saucy and full of beef. Halve a crispy baguette and your daily Vietnamese breakfast is complete!
Where To Find The Best Bo Kho in Saigon?
Bo kho can be found practically everywhere in Saigon, from open-air markets and casual cafes, to the kitchen tables of the ordinary citizen. People at all ages eat it at all times of the day. Although there are countless of places for you to enjoy bo kho, these five are vetted to be the best places in Saigon. Let’s begin!
1. Bo Kho Vendor, 194 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3
This street vendor has been serving for over 10 years. One unique thing about this joint is that the chef is an Indian woman, but she cooks bo kho like a true Vietnamese Southerner. A special chili paste served with every bowl has become this venue’s signature move.
2. Quan Ut Nhung, 109/7 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, District 3
Located in a small alley brimming with street food haunts, this place serves bo kho only in the afternoon. Their beef stew is chock full of beef chunks and is by far, one of the greatest places a foreigner could visit on a trip to Saigon.
3. Bo Kho, 343/5 To Hien Thanh Street, District 10
Located in District 10, their bo kho is served with perfectly toasted baguettes or rice noodles depending on your starch preferences. With a rich flavor profile and a great selection of fresh herbs for garnish, the bo kho here keeps foodies coming back for more.
4. Quan An Long, 12 Le Binh Street, Tan Binh District
This location usually serves bo kho as breakfast. You won’t forget your experience as an extremely hospitable staff serves you a bowl filled with the juiciest beef morsels you’ll ever try in your life. Most importantly, the stew is not too greasy, which is a very important trait when creating the perfect bowl of bo kho.
5. Bo Kho D2, 31 D2 Street, Binh Thanh District
A warm cozy feeling coupled with well-meaning service is the standard protocol at Bo Kho D2. The suitably priced meals are great for Saigonese folks who want to try a simpler version of bo kho without having to compromise on taste. The place is located on D2 street in the Binh Thanh district.
6. Vegetarian Bo Kho Option – Pho Nhu Vegan, 26 Truong Quyen, District 3
If you are a vegetarian wishing to sample this delicious bowl, the regular restaurants are not appropriate options. Fortunately, the vegetarian version of bo kho called bo kho chay, is the perfect alternative and it would be remiss not to mention Pho Nhu Vegan when it comes to the locations serving the best bowls of bo kho chay in Saigon.
Hidden in each vegetarian dish here is a pretty complex broth, flavor-wise, due to the skillful combination of different types of mushrooms, the slight sweetness from the carrots, and the charming fragrance from the charred onion and ginger.
So? What are you waiting for? Go try ALL OF THESE and let us know what you think in the comments! 😉
Enjoyed this article and want to learn about other Vietnamese food? How about some bun rieu, pho, or oc (sea snails)?
Check out the food section in Christina’s blog for more information about delicious Vietnamese dishes!