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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 1

With a turkey in the oven and space on the stove needed for cooking other dishes, I turned to my Crock Pot to free up some room. I had resisted buying a large Crock Pot for a while. I was perfectly content to let my stews simmer on the stove top for hours. I didn't need yet another appliance clogging up my limited kitchen space. And yet, the bright red pot went on sale again and again. It was calling to me, I tell you.

So I finally gave in.

My attitude with the Crock Pot, and hopefully some adaptations of my usual recipes with it, is the same as most of my cooking -- to wash as few dishes afterward as possible. While I could have browned the beef on the stove and added it to the Crock Pot, that really wouldn't have done much to adapt the recipe. Instead of frying the annatto seeds to release their color, I decided to try heating it in water in the microwave with good results. Colors were released without the use of oil. After simmering all day, I didn't really think skipping the browning made much difference to the beef, in the end.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 2

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)
Adapted from my recipe for Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

For a 4.5-quart Crock Pot, you'll need:
1 lb beef stew meat
1 lb oxtails, or short ribs, or any other beef bones
1 tblsp annatto seeds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
2-inch knob ginger, cut into big slices
1 stick of cinnamon
3 star anise
2 bay leaves
2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
2 tsp Ca Ri Ni An Do (Vietnamese Indian Madras Curry Powder)
2 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
2 tsp salt
6-oz can tomato paste
2 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
3 potatoes or more, cut into 2 -inch chunks
1 cup pearl onions, or 1 large onion, cut into 2 inch chunks

Serve with with a squeeze of lime and basil, and with rice or flat rice noodles.

You'll need about 1 lb beef stew meat and 1 lb beef bones. Wash and place inside Crock Pot.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 3

Sprinkle about 1/2 cup flour over the beef.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 4

Then stir to make sure all the pieces are coated.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 5

Add two bruised lemongrass stalks, ginger slices, a stick of cinnamon, and 3 star anise pods. Also add a few bay leaves, 2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder, and 2 tsp Ca Ri Ni An Do (Vietnamese Indian Madras Curry Powder). Add in one large chopped onion. Fill the Crock Pot about 3/4 full.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 6

Annatto seeds provide the deep rich red color and a slight sweetness to the stew. Add 1 tblsp annatto seeds to 1/2 cup water. Microwave for 1 minute to release the color.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 7

Pour the liquid only into the Crock Pot and discard the annatto seeds.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 8

Add 2 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce), 2 tsp salt, and a 6-oz can tomato paste.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 9

Stir. Cover and leave the Crock Pot on high for about 2 hours or on low for 4 hours.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 10

Then add 2 carrots and 3 potatoes.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 11

Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Cover and let the stew cook for another two hours.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 12

Not used to cooking with the Crock Pot, I was worried when it didn't seem to be thickening very fast. But then, that's not the point of a Crock Pot. After 4 hours, the bo kho was just perfect.

Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) 13

Serve with bread, rice, or rice noodles, and a squeeze of lemon or lime and basil.


New recipes served this Thanksgiving:
Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)
Homemade Turkey Gravy
Pate Chinois (Canadian "Chinese" Cottage Pie)
Pumpkin Marbled Cheesecake
Triple-Deviled Eggs with Black Pepper, Paprika, and Sriracha
Turkey Liver Pate

1 year ago today, gorgeously hued Mashed Okinawan Purple Sweet Potatoes.
2 years ago today, Tiramisu (the 5-minute Non-Recipe Recipe).


  1. crock pots...hmmm should i go there?
    i already hv rice cooker, pressure cooker...ohhh, but i want one! T_T

  2. Rawr! Looks like perfect food for our current weather!

  3. Hi, I'm a new reader! Found your blog through weezermonkey's post on banh beo (mmmm). My mom used to make this all the time. It's awesome with french bread. And I love the slow cooker I got for my wedding so I'm definitely bookmarking this recipe!

  4. hi wc - yes, it's crock pot time again. i've always wanted to learn to make this dish and now i can with this recipe! the only ingredient i don't have on hand is the Ca Ri Ni An Do spice powder. i'll have to get that at Thuan Phat...

    about the annatto seeds, yes soaking them in warm/hot water is a faster way of getting that nice red color. would using annatto powder be okay or is it better to extract the color from the seeds this way? my mom will sometimes use the liquid from annatto seeds in her adobo.

  5. Thanks for this! I use my crockpot every Sunday, and I am always looking for good recipes!

  6. yum, thanks!! i have to admit i love crockpot recipes, especially the aspect of being able to leave the house while it's cooking. i have never used annatto before but remember seeing it at my asian grocery store. i will pick some up next time and try it out! love that beautiful red color. this is such a perfect dish for cold weather!

  7. What a perfect time for this,it's cold outside and Bo Kho is warm and filling.

  8. Okay I wanna make this. Never thought about doing bo kho in a crockpot before but I've made a couple of stews that turned out well.

  9. MCR,
    Bwhaha! You're as bad as me. I haven't given into buying a pressure cooker yet though. Too scared it'll blow up on me.

    Weezer Monkey,
    It's been a bevy of soups around here!

    Welcome! Although I've heard scary things about you "Knotties"! :P

    Canine Cologne,
    I use annatto powder in my cochinita pibil recipe and it was awfully grainy. Added a whole lot more flavor to the meat, but the texture was like eating bits of sand. For the stew, it's really more for the color than flavor. If you find annatto liquid, just use that if you want.

    Let me know how it goes!

    Annatto seeds are pretty cheap. I bought a good-sized container for only a buck or two and it's kept me going for more than a year.

    It's brrrr in SoCal! 50! Sooo cold! Yeah, I know. I'm a wimp these days.

    Let me know if you do. It's super easy.

  10. hi wc - thanks for the advice. you're right - using the powder makes the dish grainy...not a nice feeling in your mouth...

    i plan to find that powder at the Vietnamese store this weekend. I really want to make this dish!

  11. I love everything soupy dish...
    esp oxtail huhhh yummy

  12. Oh my. I barely remember the days of Knotting. That seems so long ago. I guess that's how I found Weezermonkey's blog...I honestly forget these things.

  13. I made this recipe, and it's delicious!

    I made one change. Lamb bone-in shoulder was on sale, so that's what I used. Maybe lamb is not too traditional, but it was thrifty! And the stew tastes good.

    Thanks for the recipe - I know I will try others on this site.

    If Bo Kho is beef stew, what is the name for lamb stew?

  14. chi WC, you are my hero. i *just* left you an FB msg and i was wondering if i could do this in the crockpot.

    this is the perfect weekend to make this!
    <3 you more than my kitchenaid mixer.

  15. Canine Cologne,
    You'll have to tell me if the stew is a hit at your dinner party!

    Indonesia Eats,
    I looove oxtails too.

    Hehe. The older I get, the more I forget everything!

    Hey, I'm all about saving money where I can. Vdict.com says lamb/mutton is cuu, but I could've sworn when I thought it was tru? So a lamb stew would be cuu kho.

    Oh man! That's quite an endorsement. Especially as I can't knead bread dough in minutes, not having a hook for hands, you see. ;)

  16. I'm new to this blog, just tried this recipe last night and it did not turn out good. It tastes too "herbally" if that makes sense, doesn't taste like bo kho at all. I'm not sure if I bought the right chinese 5 spice powder, maybe that's what messed it up? What brand do you use?

  17. Beautimusd,
    Herbally? As in spices? Because there aren't any herbs unless you count ginger and lemongrass? It is strong on the 5-spice, curry, and star anise flavors so if you don't like those, you should use less. I buy my 5-spice powder in bulk from Henry's Marketplace or Bob's Red Mill.

    Or are you thinking of a different bo kho recipe? I've heard some people use coconut juice like in thit kho trung, but that's a very different version from here.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Hi there, this looks so tasty and easy to make for a novice like me. I'm curious though why the use of the all-purpose flour? I haven't come across it in another bo kho recipe, so just wanted to know what it was suppose to do? Thanks!

  20. Rin,
    Great! Too much salt is easy enough to fix. Just add water. :P

    Flour helps thicken the stew. I like my stew to be thicker than soup.

  21. Thanks for getting back to me! I can't wait to try the recipe out :)

  22. Hi WC, Great recipe! Can't wait to try it out! Question though: After two hours on high, did you adjust the temperature setting when adding potatoes and carrots? Or did you just leave it on high the whole four hours?

  23. Christina,
    I hope you like it!

    Just high for the whole four hours. The potatoes and carrots turned out fine for only a few hours in the Crock Pot. I wouldn't do too long or else they'd be mushy.

  24. I'm so glad I found this post! I picked up some annato seeds on a whim and have been looking for the perfect recipe to try using them. Add that to my love of the slow cooker (I use mine weekly on the days that I work from 8 - 5 then go to class from 6 - 9) and this is perfect. Thanks so much for posting this, I can't wait to try it.

  25. Food Jaunts,

    I hope you try the recipe. Reminds me I should blog a few other Crock Pot recipes as well. I hear ya on having something good to come home to on busy days.

  26. Thanks for this recipe. I am waiting for the crockpot to finish cooking it as I am typing this. So excited to try this tonight. Yes, please more crockpot recipes. I love using it, especially now that I don't have as much time to cook with a baby in the house now. Thanks!

  27. Milli,
    Crock Pot cooking is awesome for when I've got a long day at work or just don't want to fuss. Too bad blogging those recipes isn't as simple. :P

  28. Hi Wandering Chopsticks!!

    I am a faithful follower of your blog and have recreated so many favorite dishes through your recipes! My grandparents instructions of "little bit of this, little bit of that" does not bode well for a novice like me!

    ANYWAYS, one of my faves is your crock pot bo kho and I plan on making it for a group of 10 for our new years snow trip this year. Could you tell me what measurements I should use for a larger crock pot? I don't trust myself to come up with them myself.. please comment back or email me at jacklyn001@gmail.com if you have the time! It would be much appreciated!


  29. Jacklyn,
    You didn't specify the size of your larger Crock Pot? If it's the 6- or 7-quart size, I would add another pound of the beef stew meat, no need to double the bones. And do another teaspoon each of the curry powder and 5-spice powder and salt. Add another potato and carrot to the pot. The other aromatics should be fine at the same portions. Taste and add more fish sauce if needed at the end. Hope your snow group enjoys it!


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