The Recipe

Vietnamese Beef Stew
Bo Kho [pronounced Ba Kah]
As Quang and Minh Nguyen from Cam Ranh, Vietnam, taught Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine, November 6, 2011
Cooking Time: 3 hours, or 45 min with pressure cooker
Serves 10-12

4 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds stew beef
1/3 onion minced
8 stalks lemongrass
3 Tbsp spicy beef flavor paste (comes in a jar labeled Gia Vi Bo Kho)
2 Tbsp sugar
¼ tsp hot chili powder
3 tsp soy sauce
4 cups water
1 ½ lbs. red new potatoes, peeled, halved if necessary to bite size
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch rounds
1 bunch Thai basil
1 onion (1/3 minced + 2/3 shaved)
2 baguettes
Cut the green dry tops of the lemongrass off. You’ll just use the stem portions that are light colored. Whack them with the side of your knife (he used a wooden pestle – any hammer type motion will do) to get the juices flowing. Keep four of these whole for stewing in the soup later. Slice the other four crosswise into superfine rounds and then mince into a rough powder. You should have about a cup. In a small sauté pan with a little oil, sauté minced garlic and minced onion first for two minutes, and then add the minced lemongrass and cook for about another five minutes on medium until the entire mixture softens. You don’t want to brown anything, just get it soft and flavor the oil.
Put the meat in a large bowl, and add the sautéed mixture, salt, sugar, spicy beef flavor, hot chili powder, and soy sauce. Mix so the marinade covers beef evenly. Let marinate from 30 minutes to overnight.
In a large soup pot, add a little vegetable oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. When the pan is hot, sauté beef on medium high until beef is browned on the outsides. Then turn the heat to medium. Add 2 cups water or enough to not quite cover the beef, and the whole lemon grass segments.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the fresh garnishes by finely slicing the onion, washing the basil and picking the leaves off, and putting all this on a serving plate where you will be plating up the soup.
When the soup is beginning to boil add the carrots. When you can spear one of the carrots easily with a chopstick (or fork!) remove the carrots with a slotted spoon and put in a bowl temporarily to prevent them from getting mushy. You'll put them back in the soup at the end. (Since more water gets added to the broth later, he says he like the carrots to cook in this stronger broth for better flavor, as opposed to adding them at the end).
When the meat is tender, add potatoes. Cook until you can spear the potato with a chopstick or fork. Add two more cups water so you have more broth in your soup. Add the carrots back in.\
When soup is hot again, add 2-3 tsp flour to small dish, whisk in water, and then pour this flour-water in a small stream into a half submerged ladle in the soup pot that you’re stirring in a circular motion. The goal is to incorporate the flour mixture into the soup without clumping and thicken the broth slightly.
Ladle stew into bowls and garnish each with fresh raw shaved onion, Thai basil leaves, and black pepper.
Copyright Lindsay Sterling 2011