Vietnamese Beef Stew

Vietnamese Beef Stew

Today, I'm sharing a family classic recipe—my mom’s Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho). If you think you know beef stew, think again. This version is an explosion of flavours, thanks to the lemongrass, and a bunch of other spices that'll make your kitchen smell like heaven.

 beef stew in a bowl

You feel that nip in the air? Yep, it's that time of year. Winter's knocking, and that means we all need some soul-warming, hearty meals to combat the cold. Plus, with those shorter, darker days, I'm all about bringing a splash of culinary sunshine to our dining tables. Bo Kho fits that bill perfectly—a familiar comfort food, but with a zesty Vietnamese spin.

Now, let me let you in on a secret. My mom’s Bo Kho stands out from the crowd. While many recipes call for Annato seeds to give that rich color, mom swears by paprika and Bo Kho seasoning. The result? A gorgeous, deep hue that makes this stew look as good as it tastes.

By the way, if you’re wondering where to get Bo Kho seasoning, most Asian grocery stores stock it. For the Torontonians among you, I picked mine from T&T downtown. But for those cozying up at home, the online world is your oyster.


The Paste

stew paste

Now, the heart of this dish? The paste. It's what infuses the stew with its robust flavor. Once you've got everything prepped, the paste comes together in minutes. But, a word of caution: keep a keen eye on it. You want it just right, not overcooked.

And then, it's stew time! Combining the aromatic paste with beef broth transforms your pot into a melody of flavors. The key is to let it simmer, letting the spices and beef truly get to know each other. By the end of it, you’ll have beef so melt-in-your-mouth tender, it's almost poetic.

Before dishing it out, give it a taste. Mom always said, "Cooking is an art, but seasoning is personal." So, go on, adjust to your heart's desire.


  • Beef hip or shank (1 pound), cubed
  • Carrots (1 bag), peeled and chopped
  • Cornstarch slurry (1 tbsp cornstarch, 2 tbsp warm water)
  • White onion (1, thinly sliced)

Broth seasoning:

  • Chicken bouillon (2 cubes)
  • Salt (1-2 tbsp)
  • Sugar (4-5 tsp)

Stew paste:

  • 5 tbsp cooking oil (add more if it's too dry)
  • Garlic (5 cloves)
  • Shallots (2)
  • Ginger (2 inches)
  • Lemongrass (2 tablespoons)
  • Bo kho seasoning (3 tbsp)
  • Paprika (2 tsp)
  • Curry powder (1 tsp)
  • Cayenne pepper (1 tsp)
  • Maggi soy sauce (or any soy sauce, 3 tbsp)
  • Ketchup (3 tbsp)


Preparation is Key: Before we start, get all your aromatic veggies (garlic, shallots, ginger, lemongrass) finely chopped. Also, have your spices and sauces lined up. It'll make the cooking process smoother and way more fun.

Begin with the Broth: Grab a large pot and pour in about 12-14 cups of water. Bring it to a boil. As it's heating up, add your cubed beef. You'll notice some impurities floating to the top, forming a foamy layer. Don't panic! This is normal. Just keep skimming off the impurities until your broth looks clearer.

Flavor the Broth: Once you've got a clean broth, it’s time to jazz it up. Toss in your chicken bouillon cubes, sprinkle in the sugar, and maybe a hint of MSG ;). Dial the heat down to medium-low and let it work its magic.

Paste: While your broth simmers, grab a skillet and heat up a generous glug (about 5 tablespoons) of oil. Toss in your aromatics - think garlic, onion, ginger, and lemongrass. Ah, the aroma should start hitting you in about a minute or two. Once it does, it's time to introduce the dried spices to the party. Keep stirring so they mingle well. Finish off with star anise, ketchup, and that delightful Maggi soy sauce.

Merge the Magic: By now, your paste should have a rich, deep color and an even richer aroma. Transfer this beauty into your simmering pot of broth.

Veggies: Add your chopped carrots to the pot. These will add a lovely sweetness to the stew, complementing the spices just right.

Patience: Let your stew cook for about 2 hours on medium-low heat. We're aiming for beef that's so tender, it could be the main character in a romantic movie. Keep an eye on it, give it an occasional stir, and enjoy the fragrant aroma filling your kitchen.

Final Flourishes: Almost there! As you prepare to serve, mix your cornstarch with warm water to create a slurry. This will thicken your stew, giving it that perfect consistency. Pour it in. Finally, sprinkle in the thinly sliced white onions for that fresh, crunchy contrast.

sliced onion

Serving suggestion: Grab a fresh baguette, some noodles, or maybe some steamed rice. Whatever you choose, it’s bound to be a culinary experience to remember.

Enjoy your meal, and remember, winter's all about cozying up with good food and great memories. Happy cooking! YOMMM

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