Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bo Kho - Vietnamese Beef Stew

I don't usually eat out but when I do, my favorite place for lunch is the Vietnamese Pho restaurant in Rancho Bernardo, Pho Hoang Express. And my favorite dish is the beef stew. It is so wonderful dipping the baguette in the sauce and the meat is always so well cooked. I have a hard time figuring out the spices used in this recipe so I decided that the only way to know is to actually make some myself.

First, I had to find a recipe I can trust. So I went to one of the food websites that I follow regularly, Wandering Chopsticks. The pictures are so crisp and beautiful and the writing is great. Check it out. It will make you drool!

The next step was to purchase the ingredients. Vons is not the right place for most Vietnamese spices and is definitely NOT where you will get oxtails. For the meat and oxtails, there was only one place to go, Bisher's Quality Meats in Poway. Ever since Mrs Martian and I have discovered Bisher's, we buy all our meat there. Randy and his team are always very happy to tell you about the origin of the food and how it was processed. Next step was to find a Vietnamese supermarket. The closest one is Vinh Hung Supermarket in the corner of Mira Mesa Blvd and Camino Ruiz. Luckily they had all the right ingredients. To make it even better, I was able to add a Mauritian touch to the meal. At the supermarket, I found bredes chouchou!

What are bredes chouchou? In English, chouchou are called chayote. They are a very popular vegetable in Mexican cuisine. The bredes chouchou are the shoots of the chouchou vine. They grow just like pumpkins and watermelon. A good site to check it out on is Bredes are just the edible leaves from lots of plants that grow easily in Mauritius. We have bredes cresson, bredes malbar, bredes de chine and many, many more.

The most common way of cooking bredes chouchou is to make a bouillon or soup but since I was already making a stew, I decided to just saute them with a little garlic, salt and pepper just like spinach.

So now to the Bo Kho recipe from Wandering Chopsticks. Here's the details based upon the Twitter timeline.

Bo Kho recipe (twitter)

Ingredients (twitter, twitpic)

1 lb oxtails
1 lb beef stew meat
1 tablespoon annatto seeds
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 stalks lemongrass
2 inch ginger
1 stick cinnamon
3 star anise
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons 5 spice powder
2 teaspoons Vietnamese Indian Madras Curry powder
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce
2 teaspoons salt
6 oz tomato paste
2 carrots
3 potatoes
1 cup pearl onions

T=0 (twitter)
  • Chop the vegetables up front.
  • Cut the ginger in thick slices, the carrots and potatoes in 2 inch chunks.
  • Bruise the lemongrass using a roller.
  • Peel the pearl onions.
  • Wash the meat and oxtails and pat them dry.
T=10 (twitter)
  • Put 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot and bring to high heat.
  • Add the annatto seeds.
  • Stir as they release their color, keep stirring. They will pop all over the place. Use a lid to keep them from making a mess around the stove.
  • When the oil is nice and red, remove the seeds.
T=14 (twitter)
  • Sprinkle flour on the meat and oxtails. Make sure they are coated properly as this will keep the juices in the meat as it cooks.
  • Fry the meat and oxtails until they are brown and crispy. It is easier to do this in small batches and put each batch aside on a plate. This keeps the oil hot and the meat fries properly. If the oil is too cold, the juices will come out of the meat.
T=21 (twitter, twitpic)
  • Now that the meat is cooked, add the rest of the flour to the pot.
  • Also add the lemongrass, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, bay leaf, 5-spice powder, curry, fish sauce, salt and tomato paste.
  • Add water to the pot until there is 1 to 2 inches of water above the meat.
T=35 (twitter)
  • Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and put the lid on. Let it simmer for an hour.
T=95 (twitter)
  • Add the potatoes, pearl onions and carrots.
  • Check the taste and add salt if necessary.
  • Put the lid back on and simmer for another hour.
T=155 (twitter, twitpic)
  • Ready to serve!

Don't forget the baguette. And dip it in the sauce.

This stew was a hit!

It also went well with the bredes. Everyone was trying to figure out what the bredes tasted like. The consensus at the end was that it tasted like brocolli.

There are 3 things I would do differently next time:

  • Put the non edible ingredients like ginger and star anise in a sachet. That will make it easier to remove before serving.

  • Add more meat. We are a family of six with 3 growing young men. More meat would have satisfied them more.

  • Start earlier. The total time for this recipe was 155 minutes. It was ready just when everyone turned up. I should have started 30 to 60 minutes earlier and let the meat cook longer.

1 comment:

  1. Great job! I definitely prefer to let my stews simmer longer for maximum tenderness and flavor. I'm so glad you're reading and cooking from my blog!

    I love squash tips. I usually just saute them with a bit of garlic. Little else is needed.