When winter seeps into our bones and makes us envy those lucky woodland creatures that get to hibernate during the frigid months, there’s only one thing that can warm up our cold souls: a hearty, comforting bowl of stew. It seems that a variety of cultures agree with us – from French beef bourguignon, to Brazilian moqueca, to African peanut stew, a thick, chunky and filling soup is the ultimate comfort food for many people around the world. However, out of all the soothing, slow-simmered dishes we’ve tried, we’re partial to bokho, the Vietnamese beef stew that tastes like an aromatic hug.
In many ways, bokho is similar to a traditional British beef stew you might eat at your local pub, complete with onions, tomatoes, carrots and tender beef. But what truly sets this dish apart from other stews is its incredibly rich stock, enlivened by the aromatic ingredients that make up Vietnamese cuisine. Ginger, lemongrass, Chinese five spice, star anise and fish sauce each add layers of flavour and bring a different element to the broth.
Aside from its amazing flavour, the beauty of bokho is its flexibility. Walk into a Vietnamese restaurant in Chelmsford, and you may find the chef cooking bokho with potatoes and flat rice noodles. Sit down for a bowl of bokho in a Vietnamese home, and you could be served a piping hot helping showered with fresh herbs and served with a French baguette. Though the basic building blocks of the dish are universal, you can add whatever veggies you have on hand, serve it with rice, noodles or bread and tailor it to suit your tastes.
One more reason we love bokho? It’s easy to make. Though the stew takes awhile to simmer, the actual cooking requires little more than chopping up the ingredients and throwing them into a pot. It’s the perfect meal for a chilly, lazy Sunday, when you want a low-maintenance dinner that’s both simple and satisfying.
The next time you find yourself fantasizing about hibernating until spring graces us with its presence, step into your kitchen instead. The remedy to all your wintertime woes is as simple as simmering a sumptuous stew using this recipe inspired by the authentic Indochinese flavours of Banana Tree. And if you’re not feeling up to the task of cooking, don’t fret! Banana Tree has delivery and takeaway options, so you can enjoy a comforting Vietnamese soup anytime.
Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew), inspired by Banana Tree
For the beef
1 kg stewing beef, cut into chunks
3 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 knob of ginger, minced
1 tsp. Chinese five spice powder
For the stew
2 Tbsp. oil
2 lemongrass stalks, cut into chunks
1 medium brown onion, diced
2 whole star anise
2 cinnamon stick
1 can chopped tomatoes
300 ml coconut water
1 L beef stock
1 kg carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
Steamed rice, French baguette or rice noodles
Thai basil and cilantro
In a bowl, toss the beef with the fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and five spice powder. Marinate for at least half an hour.
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the lemongrass, onion, star anise and cinnamon sticks and cook until fragrant. Add the marinated beef and cook until no pink remains. Pour in the tomatoes, coconut water and beef stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for about an hour, until the beef is tender. Add the carrots and continue to simmer until soft. Serve the stew over rice or noodles, or with a baguette alongside. Garnish with a shower of fresh herbs.