Beef Stewed with Tomato, Star Anise, and Lemongrass (Bo Kho)

(recipe, Andrea Nguyen)


According to Andrea Nguyen, nearly every Vietnamese cook has his or her own version of this popular stew. She shares this recipe from her family in her book Into the Vietnamese Kitchen.


  1. 2 lb. boneless beef chuck, well trimmed and cut into 1½ -inch chunks
  2. 1 hefty stalk lemongrass, loose leaves discarded, cut into 3-inch lengths and bruised with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife
  3. 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
  4. 1½ tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  5. 2½ Tbsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
  6. 1½ tsp. brown sugar
  7. 1 bay leaf
  8. 3 Tbsp. canola oil
  9. 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  10. 2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes or 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  11. Generous ½ teaspoon salt
  12. 2 star anise
  13. 3 cups water
  14. 1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  15. ¼ cup chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves


  1. In a bowl, combine the beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, five-spice powder, ginger, brown sugar, and bay leaf. Mix well with chopsticks to coat the beef evenly. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, add the beef and sear on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Each batch should take about 3 minutes. Reserve the lemongrass and bay leaf from the marinade and discard the rest.
  3. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the onion and cook gently, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the tomatoes and salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the mixture is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste. Check occasionally to make sure the tomato mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. If it does, stir well and splash in some water.
  4. When the paste has formed, add the beef, lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise. Give the contents of the pot a bit of a stir, and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and penetrate the beef. Add the water, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1¼ hours, or until the beef is chewy-tender (a sign that it is close to being done). To test for doneness, press on a piece; it should yield but still feel firm.
  5. Add the carrots and return the stew to a simmer, adjusting the heat if needed. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots and beef are tender. (This stew may be made up to 2 days in advance. Let cool, cover and refrigerate, then bring to a simmer before continuing.)
  6. Just before serving, do a final taste test. Add salt or a shot of fish sauce to intensify the overall flavor. Or, splash in a bit of water to lighten the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish, removing and discarding the lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise. Garnish with chopped Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves.