Vietnamese beef stew (bo kho)

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Soups & stews

Vietnamese beef stew (bo kho)

Main Serves 4 1h 30 min
A sensationally fragrant beef dish. Calling it a stew doesn't do it justice. It can't be coincidental that Vietnam was a French colony; recipes abound using virtually any cut of cheap beef from oxtail and brisket to shin and ribs, but the flavourings are fairly constant: lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and fish sauce.


  • 450g diced beef
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 12 shallots, peeled
  • 3cm piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp Chinese five spice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 stems lemongrass, bruised with a rolling pin
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 500ml strong beef stock
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in 2cm slices
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced


Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 1h 20 min
  • Step 1

    Quickly brown the beef in the oil and set aside. Fry the onion and whole shallots until the onion begins to brown, then add the ginger, garlic, five spice, cinnamon, star anise and lemongrass and stir to combine.
  • Step 2

    Stir in the fish sauce, soya sauce, paprika, sugar, stock, carrots, sweet potato and beef. Cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, until everything is cooked.
  • Step 3

    Discard the lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon and serve the dish with rice and steamed greens. You'll probably need some bread (French of course) for mopping up the juices.

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