the next time you go to a pho restaurant, look for this hidden gem on the menu. it’s probably past #20 of all the potential meat combos you can get with your pho. compared to pho, bo kho has a deeper umami taste, due to the tomatoes and fish sauce in the broth. it’s almost like the vietnamese version of beef bourguignon, but this time served on rice noodles! you can either cook this low and slow, sans aggression (thanks ludo lefebvre for the best way to describe gentle cooking), or the process can be expedited with a pressure cooker or instant pot.
2 lbs. beef blade, chuck roast or oxtail, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 head of garlic, minced
1-inch ginger, minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tsps. five spice powder
2 tsps. brown sugar
neutral cooking oil (I use canola or avocado oil)
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2-inch long segments
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks on a bias
1/4 cup sake or cooking wine
1 L water
500 mL coconut water
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/8 cup gf tamari
1 tbsp. paprika
1 star anise
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne chili powder
1 tsp. annatto powder (optional - typically used to colour orange cheddar, this red powder is used to give the broth a deep red colour)
1 tsp. salt
1 (400g) pack of rice vermicelli or pho noodles
juice of 1/2 lime, the other 1/2 cut in wedges for garnish
bean sprouts, raw
thinly sliced onion, raw
thai basil, chopped or kept in sprigs
cilantro + green onions (weed), chopped
fried garlic (store bought)
Before doing anything else, soak your rice noodles in cool water for at least 30 minutes. Let them hang out while you get everything else ready. Set a timer.
Marinate beef in minced garlic, ginger, five spice powder, fish sauce and brown sugar for 30 minutes.
Heat a dutch oven or pressure cooker pot to medium-high heat. Add neutral cooking oil. Fry and brown beef, approximately 2 minutes per side. Do not cook through. Remove beef from the pot and set aside. Add lemongrass, onions and carrots. Sauté until aromatic and deglaze the bottom of the pot with sake or wine to release any of the browned meat bits (fonds) from the bottom of the pot. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add the beef back in with the marinating liquid, along with all ingredients from water to salt. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. If cooking in a dutch oven, simmer on the stove or in the oven at 275 F for 2-3 hours, until beef is tender. If cooking in a pressure cooker or instant pot, cook at pressure for 35 minutes. Cook for 45 if using oxtail.
10 minutes before the end of your cook time, heat a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Place soaked noodles in a mesh strainer and dunk them into the boiling water. Test for doneness after 30-45 seconds. The noodles should be soft but chewy. Run noodles under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle oil onto noodles to make sure they do not clump into a ball. Portion into noodle soup bowls.
After the elapsed time, uncover pot and skim the top of the broth with a large spoon or ladle to remove any excess oil.
With your noodles ready in bowls, ladle hot Bo Kho broth into the bowls, garnish with herbs and fried garlic. Consume!