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Spicy Vietnamese Beef Stew With Noodles

Bo Kho may be a spicy and flavorful Vietnamese stew that creates for a reasonably epic bowl of noodle soup when you’ve maybe had your fill of pho or are trying to find something a touch different.

It’s one among those dishes that seems simple–spicy beef soup, right?–but that you simply know must be more complex given how flavorful and delicious it's when you’re enjoying the simplest possible version of it. 

Spicy Vietnamese Beef Stew With Noodles
Spicy Vietnamese Beef Stew With Noodles

And, indeed, Bo Kho is flavored with chili, five-spice, fish sauce, lemongrass, many garlic, and tomato. Its familiar red color comes from the addition of fragrant annatto, which imparts a particular red color! you'll use or make annatto oil if you'll get your hands thereon , except for this recipe, I’ve used ground annatto powder and my homemade chili oil to urge that spicy flavor.

Bo Kho at its most elementary is taken into account a “beef stew,” given it are often prepared as a soup or a thicker stew, but to me, I always consider it more of a soup. It also can be served with rice or French bread , but we love it served with noodles! You'll use rice noodles (“rice sticks” if you’re conversant in Vietnamese restaurant parlance) or egg noodles, too, if that’s your preference!

Spicy Vietnamese Beef Stew With Noodles

For the beef:

  • 2 to 2 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck or brisket (cut into 1½-inch chunks)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 3 tablespoons ginger (minced)
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2½ teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 1½ teaspoons brown sugar

For the rest of the stew:

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (cut into 3-inch lengths, after removing any tough woody parts)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (minced, after removing any tough woody parts)
  • 8 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 onion (sliced thinly)
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups pure coconut water/juice
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground annatto (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 8 large carrots (peeled and cut on the bias into 1½ -inch chunks)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chili oil (or to taste)
  • wide rice noodles or egg noodles
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup Thinly sliced raw onion
  • Lime wedges


  1. First marinate the beef. Combine the beef with the garlic, ginger, fish sauce, five-spice powder, and brown sugar until each piece is evenly coated. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Next, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the stalks of lemongrass and allow them to infuse the oil for 1 minute. Next, add the minced lemongrass and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Then add all of the beef to the pot, and brown evenly on all sides. Add the tomato paste.
  4. Stir and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the water, coconut water, star anise, ground black pepper, chili powder, annatto, and paprika. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 1 hour.
  5. After an hour has passed, add the carrots, salt, soy sauce, and chili oil. Simmer for another 40 minutes.
  6. To serve, remove the large lemongrass stalks and any star anise pods you can fish out. Cook your noodles per package instructions, transfer to bowls, and ladle the soup over the top.
  7. Garnish with cilantro, Thai basil, and raw onion, and serve with some lime wedges on the side

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