Bo Kho Saigon (Braised Beef)

Bo Kho (braised beef) is one of the well-known dishes in numerous specialties in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Enjoying a modest bowl of bo kho makes you understand more about Saigon street food and Vietnamese cuisine as well. Vietnam's diacritic-laden written language, regal colonial structures, and cuisine are all reminders of the French. While most people associate French gastronomic influences in Vietnamese cuisine with pho or banh mi, the basic bowl of bo kho should not be neglected.

 

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The term "kho" refers to a Vietnamese braising technique, and this meal exemplifies it, with inexpensive offcuts cooked to delicate, flavorful perfection. Kho foods are comfort foods for most Vietnamese and are typically eaten in the house, but family-style dishes like these have gained in appeal as Saigon's burgeoning migrant community searches for a piece, or in this case, a bowl, of home.

Most kho meals, such as thit kho to dau (caramelized braised pig with coconut milk) and ca kho to (braised fish in a caramel sauce), are influenced by Chinese cuisine, but not this hearty one, which appears to be European at first impression. Beef chunks swim in a dark red stew with carrots, onions, and turnips (less so with potatoes).

 

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Beef shank and flank cuts are utilized in bo kho. The flank has tough tendons running through it, while the shank is dense – not ideal for steak, but perfect for slow cooking. The meats are broken down to a soft, almost gelatinous texture throughout the extended stewing procedure. Unlike most European stews, the deep crimson color comes from annato seeds, which are commonly used in Vietnamese recipes for this purpose (they are also used in bun bo hue). With undertones of lemongrass, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and five-spice powder, the soup has a Vietnamese flavor.

 

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Bun (rice vermicelli), mi (egg noodles), mi goi (egg noodle packet), or banh mi can all be served with this dish. Once the stew has been ladled into the bowl, thinly sliced raw white onion, basil leaves, and a pinch of pepper are used as garnishes. To personalize your dining experience, you will be given a few condiments on the side, as with most Vietnamese dishes. Lime wedges and chopped chilies are offered alongside this meal. For a little more taste, ask for some muoi dieu, a salt and pepper blend; squeeze in some lime and dip your beef in it.

Leading Bo Kho Eateries in Ho Chi Minh City:  A good bo kho vendor may be found at 42 Hoang Dieu, but if you're looking for something a little more central, a number of bo kho stalls can be found across the street from Bitexco Tower.

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