This Vietnamese-inspired stew features juicy vegan "beef" cooked in a rich and flavorful broth infused with lemongrass, garlic, and spices. It is incredibly easy, warming, hearty, and SO delicious!
This Vietnamese dish is not very popular outside of Vietnam, which is actually a shame because it's one of the best stew you will ever try! Yes, it's that good.
It's the ultimate comfort food!
📘 What is Bò Kho
Bò kho is well-known as one of the most savory dishes of South Vietnam. It’s a spicy beef stew that originated in Saigon during the French colonial period. During the old times, bò kho was usually cooked in big pots and carried with a shoulder pole by sellers. It was then sold at some corners of the streets.
Although its name contains “kho” (meaning braised), it is actually a stew with beef, carrots, and sometimes potatoes. It’s infused with lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon, and many other spices.
Bò kho is often served with either bánh mì (baguettes), hủ tiếu (rice noodles) or even with rice.
Being so popular for its hearty, aromatic broth, as well as its flavorful ingredients, Bò kho is definitely a dish that you should give a try as soon as you get the chance!
🥣 How to Make Vegan "Beef" Stew
This "beef" takes about 35 minutes to prepare and just a few ingredients. Here is what you will need:
- Vegan "beef" - I personally use "Beef" imitation slices which is a kind of TVP, but you can use your favorite seitan or store-bought vegan beef.
- Carrots & potatoes - While the original version of this dish only calls for carrots, many Vietnamese households add potatoes as well for a heartier dish. I recommend using baby potatoes, or waxy potatoes so they don't crumble into the stew.
- Coconut water - For a more fragrant and slightly sweeter broth. You can use water if you don't have coconut water on hand, it will still be delicious!
- Sugar - To balance with the saltiness and the spices.
- Spices - A key element to this stew is the spice blend! You can use pre-mixed packets, or make your own blend by checking the recipe notes.
- Optional: Mushrooms and tofu. This stew is versatile so feel free to add extra veggies!
It starts with the vegan beef that is marinated with the spices, salt, and sugar. Note: If using TVP, you first need to rehydrate it in water for about 20 minutes. Next, rinse it and squeeze to remove as much moisture as possible.
Let the vegan beef marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
The spice blend is very unique to this dish and is usually bought pre-mixed. You can usually find the blend sold in small packets in Asian stores, or online. Since these mixes are not cheap or easy to find, I came up with my own!
Bò Kho Spice Blend
To make the spice blend, combine: 1 tsp ground star anise, 1 tsp annatto powder, ½ tsp five-spice powder, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp turmeric, and ⅛ tsp ground coriander. Optionally, you can add ⅛ teaspoon ground black cardamom and ⅛ teaspoon chili powder for extra smokiness and spiciness.
Next, it's time to prepare the stew!
Sauté shallots and lemongrass stalks for a few minutes in a pot. Add the marinated "beef" and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Pour in the coconut water, sugar, salt, and water. Add the sliced carrots, potatoes, and the tofu if using. Let simmer covered for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Finally, taste and adjust the saltiness and sweetness of the broth to taste and serve piping hot!
🥖 What to Serve with This "Beef" Stew
Bò kho is served with either:
- Noodles: Usually round rice noodles, but any type of noodle will work.
- Bread: Preferably a crusty baguette or Bánh mì. Dip the bread into the salty broth so it can soak up the flavors!
- Rice: You can serve it with either white or brown rice.
- Can I omit the annatto powder from the spice blend? Yes, you can omit it as it doesn't bring any flavor. However, your stew won't have a vibrant red color.
- How long does this stew keep? This stew will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat covered over medium heat.
If you are looking for a warming and hearty stew to enjoy during the cold days, this is definitely it! The broth has the perfect balance of sweet and salty with a hint of spiciness, while the vegan "beef" is super tender and juicy!
Vietnamese "Beef" Stew (Bò Kho Chay)
- 2 tablespoon oil use annatto oil for a deeper red color
- 2 stalks of lemongrass cut into 2-inch sticks
- 1 shallot minced
- 2 cups coconut water or regular water
- 1 and ⅓ cup water
- 4-5 baby potatoes peeled
- 1 medium carrot peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 2 tablespoon sugar start with 1 tablespoon and adjust to taste
- 1 and ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon mushroom seasoning optional, helps enhance the flavor of the broth
- For serving: fresh cilantro, bread, rice, or noodles
- Soak the TVP slices in water for about 25 minutes, or until fully rehydrated. Next, rinse the slices 2-3 times under cold water and drain them very well by squeezing the slices between your hands. Transfer to a bowl.
- Add the spices, minced garlic, sugar, and salt. Toss to coat the TVP slices evenly. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or deep pot. Once hot, add the shallots and lemongrass and sauté for about 3 minutes.
- Add the marinated vegan beef and sauté for another minute.
- Pour in the coconut water and the water. Then, add the baby potatoes, carrots, and the seasonings: salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and let simmer covered for about 25 minutes over low-medium heat.
- Once the potatoes and carrots are cooked and tender, remove from heat. Taste and adjust the sweetness and saltiness of the broth to your liking.
- Serve the stew piping hot with either rice noodles, white rice, or crusty baguette. Garnish with fresh cilantro, raw onion slices, and a squeeze of lime! This stew will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
- You can replace all of the spices with 1 and ½ tablespoon of Bò Kho spices seasoning.
- If you want to add mushrooms, sauté 3-4 mushrooms (sliced) at the same time as the vegan beef.