Chaos Cooking Episode #3 Vietnamese-style Beef, Tomato, Star Anise Stew (Bo Kho – sort of!)

Did someone say licquorice? Aniseed? Five Spice? Star Anise? Hello I’m your best friend, please invite me to your house for dinner……I love these flavours.  I’m not sure when and how and the love affair started by it would probably be a tie between aniseed wheel sweets and licquorice straps back in the day, well my early days that is. Anyways, you get the picture, I’m a fan, but oddly not so much of the similar flavoured alcoholic drinks like Ouzo, Opal Nera, Arak etc which probably has something to do with close encounters with the carpet, as in faceplanted into the Berber weave or planting myself unexpectedly in a random garden after consuming too many of these in one sitting back in my wayard youth/life before children.

So, where were we? Oh yes, cooking.  So I got the sudden craving this week for a Vietnamese-style Star-Anise hit and a couple of Google clicks later I had found enough recipes in a similar vein to sort of wing it, whilst adhering to the key ingredients.  At some point I’ll get around to writing a post on my top collection of spices, sauces and condiments from around the globe that just work with almost everything, or at least I think so but I do have peculiar tastes sometimes. It just so happens that Chinese Five Spice is one of those super spices that goes well with chicken, beef, pork….not sure about fish but I could be tempted to try!

Moving right along, I decided to make a version of Bo Kho – Vietnamese Beef, Tomato, Star Anise and Lemongrass stew with quite a good dose of ginger to give it a kick.  Vietnamese food is amazing, well what I’ve tried of it which to be frank isn’t much but I adore the fresh rice paper rolls with egg and shrimp or tofu and snow peas dipped in a pungent/sweet sauce…….I ate this every day for a week in Siam Reap (yes I realise thats not Vietnam but it was close!)

Good grief. So without further ado I give you my extremely tasty version of Bo Kho, which only uses 1 pot – bonus non-washing up points!

I got the recipe from and apparently it is from the book Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nyugen, but have changed it around a little to suit my tastes. I also just stumbled across the following food blog which is awesome, I’m going to try some of the recipes on there asap! have a look at


700gms lean stewing steak cut into generous chunks

1 large stalk of Lemongrass, fresh or preserved

3 Tbsp. fish sauce

3 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder

2-3 Tbsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger

3 tsp. brown sugar

1 Bay leaf

3 Tbsp. stirfry oil (combo of sesame and canola, maybe peanut oil)

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 can of chopped tomatoes or 2 cups of fresh chopped

Generous ½ teaspoon salt

3 Star anise

3 cups water

1 large carrot chopped into short sticks

8 baby corn chopped into thirds

1 giant field mushroom or if you can get them try Japanese Enoki mushrooms as I think they’ll work well

1 cup chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves


This is the original method although I sped up the cooking process by turning up the heat but the meat was still pretty tender

  1. In a bowl, combine the beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, five-spice powder, ginger, brown sugar, and bay leaf. Mix well with chopsticks to coat the beef evenly. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, add the beef and sear on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Each batch should take about 3 minutes. Reserve the lemongrass and bay leaf from the marinade and discard the rest.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the onion and cook gently, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the tomatoes and salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the mixture is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste. Check occasionally to make sure the tomato mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. If it does, stir well and splash in some water.
  4. When the paste has formed, add the beef, lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise. Give the contents of the pot a bit of a stir, and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and penetrate the beef. Add the water, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1¼ hours, or until the beef is chewy-tender (a sign that it is close to being done). To test for doneness, press on a piece; it should yield but still feel firm.
  5. Add the carrots and return the stew to a simmer, adjusting the heat if needed. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots and beef are tender. (This stew may be made up to 2 days in advance. Let cool, cover and refrigerate, then bring to a simmer before continuing.)
  6. Just before serving, do a final taste test. Add salt or a shot of fish sauce to intensify the overall flavor. Or, splash in a bit of water to lighten the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish, removing and discarding the lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise. Garnish with chopped Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves.

We ate it as is without any starches to accompany it but you could serve it over steamed rice as the flavours are pretty intense and the rice would nicely soak up the sauce.  Otherwise it would make an awesome salad topping the next day maybe with some Asian coleslaw. Have fun cooking!


Posted on May 10, 2012, in General, Global Family Culture, Planet Family Food, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. sounds delish, but oyster mornay with crusty french bread was the meal of the day here. Haven’t had it for yonks. russ not too keen but I LOVED IT. Easy too. Keep wanting a fish pie.. for about a week now. ok within the next 2/3 days will have to satisfy this urge…

  2. Yum sounds divine. Will definitely be trying this. Also loving the sound of mums oyster mornay but just can’t get past eating them au natural!

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