Chatting with my sisters and cousins on our Whatsapp group, the topic of food comes up very frequently. One of us would usually snap something of what we’re eating and say “PHO!!!!!!” or whatever we’re chowing down at the time. The few times I’ve said that, my cousin would say that’s actually not his go-to item at Vietnamese restaurants, but rather Bo Kho. I was rather perplexed to say the least. I’ve never heard of it and I don’t recall ever seeing it at a Vietnamese restaurant. I do partially blame that on my tunnel vision as my thought process usually is A) do I want any salad/spring rolls? B) do I want the big or small bowl of the house special pho which is usually a blend of beef brisket, beef balls, beef flank and if I’m lucky, beef tripe, or tendon or honeycomb tripe.
Bo Kho, he described is soothing and a beef stew. I love beef stew! In fact, one thing I thought about this week was how cool would it be to have a restaurant dedicated to beef stews around the world. I have at least five recipes on hand that are in my regular rotation that I love eating.
I digress though. With some research, the spices used for this is very similar to making Pho, which I was surprised about. But that only mean that it is delicious. With summer time rolling around in San Francisco, aka Winter, and that last weekend I actually wasn’t doing much, it was an opportune time to try this out. I settled on this recipe right here on this blog:
There’s no Ranch 99 in the city, but luckily I live near the Inner Richmond, so the New May Wah market is just as stocked. I found the annatto seeds there no problem for cheap. I’m not entirely convinced that I need to use that in the stew aside from getting that nice red colour, but that’s something I’ll have to test out a few times to really see. The curry powder (exact brand), I found there no problem as well.
Buying the beef was interesting to say the least. I usually buy chuck roast at Fresh and Easy as my usual go to stewing meat. But I decided to try my luck at the meat section of New May Wah. I knew I wanted some Oxtail to give some serious flavor and mouth feel for the stew gravy since you can’t go wrong with fatty meat, bones and abundance of collagen. There was some serious sticker shock though at $6.99 a pound. This is traditionally an non-desirable meat since its 50% bone and fatty meat. But gone are the good old days of the 80/90s where it was ‘undiscovered’ and when the whole ‘fat is bad’ craze was in full effect. I still bought it anyway.
I decided I want some tendon as well since I love the soft texture of it when braised for a long time. It almost melts in your mouth, fat free and all protein. Extremely under-represented in western foods, but you find it everywhere in Chinese cuisines.
For some reason I decided to buy short ribs with it as well. This too used to be cheap once upon a time from what I understand, but it was the same price as the oxtails. Heavy in gristle, fat and bone – this is also another great thing to have in stews.
Last but not least, I needed actually some “real meat” to put in the stew. No chuck here for some reason, but I did lamb shanks a few weeks ago. There were some beef shanks so I got that instead. All in all, this was definitely one of the more expensive things I’ve cooked ingredient wise. The beef alone: oxtail, shank, ribs, tendons amounted to around $40 dollars. This yielded to about 6 meals and pretty much at that point if you think about it, I might as well go out to eat at nearly $7 per meal. But hey, #treatyoself!
I followed the recipe to a T for the most part so there’s nothing too interesting to say. I did give myself an oil burn when I carelessly dropped the beef chunks into pot and hot oil splashed out.
How did the stew turn out??
Sweet Baby Jesus. Bo Kho = BK = Beef Krack. It’s freaking amazing. In your face beef flavour with an incredibly rich broth fully attributed to the oxtail, ribs and tendons. Taking it out of the refrigerator, it was meat jello – the holy grail of stocks and broths. I’m going to skimp on the ribs next time though. As much as I like it, that shit is FATTY. I had to skim off so much fat, but since fat = flavour, I’m sure it contributed on how good this stew was. That being said, it was my favourite chunk of meat to munch on in the stew. The shanks were OK, a tiny bit on the stringy side, but still a wonderful stewing meat. Going back the taste… I love the infusion of the soft, aromatic blend of lemongrass, cinnamon, star anise as the main flavours. It felt like eating pho in stew form in some ways. My only regret eating this for the week was I didn’t have any nice soft baguettes to soak up the sauce. While I’m at it, it would’ve been extra nice to have some thai basil on hand and fresh limes to garnish it every time I ate it at lunch. Next time.
Next time I try it though, some other recipes use onions and garlic to sautee first before adding the beef in, so I think I will do that. I think it would be a richer more flavourful gravy/broth in texture from the melted onions and more aromatic.
This now earns a special place in my recipe repertoire. I strongly recommend if you’re seeking in your face flavour and have some time on your hands. Aside from the prep work and initial cooking of about 30 mins, you just wait it out for everything to braise and come together. I took a nap and watched Fast and Furious while making this. You certainly wouldn’t be disappointed.