How to make ginger braised beef

One of my favourite dishes in Vietnam, trườn kho (beef stew) is a hearty, spicy and aromatic broth with diced beef, carrot và lemongrass. Trườn kho can be eaten on its own with a warm baguette for dunking or served over noodles, và is almost always accompanied by half a dozen types of fresh herb. The cooking process is long & complex so a really good bowl of trườn kho is rare, but when you find one there’s nothing quite lượt thích it.

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Bò kho (beef stew): spicy, aromatic & colourful

What is it?

The base of a good bò kho is as complex and exciting as an Indian curry paste. Star anise, cinnamon, red chilli, cloves, black pepper, garlic, shallots, ginger and even nutmeg, turmeric and fennel seeds can all be used to create the rich & spicy foundation of this stew. Many cooks will simply use an off-the-shelf ‘bò kho powder’, but the result is still an intense and intricate broth.


Slow-cooked beef và beef bones địa chỉ body to the spices. Then there’s lemongrass; lots of it! In every great cauldron of bubbling bò kho you’ll see dozens of splintered sticks of lemongrass bobbing up and down in the amber broth. The lemongrass cuts the rich, deep flavours of the spices và the meat, & gives the soup a light và citrusy balance. This balance is typical of Vietnamese cuisine, and for me it’s what sets trườn kho apart from the curries of the Indian Subcontinent (which are heavier & richer than bò kho), & from the similarly spiced dishes of the Malay Peninsular và Indonesia (which have more heat khổng lồ them than trườn kho).


Being someone who prefers the smell of fresh chilli khổng lồ the taste of it, trườn kho suits me perfectly: all the flavours & fragrances from the spices are present in the broth but the heat is tempered và cooled by the lemongrass. Having said that, I have had some extremely firey bowls of bò kho, especially in rural areas.

Like so many Vietnamese dishes, no one can agree on the origins of bò kho. However, there are lots of possible influences, from both East and West. The amount & kind of spices used in trườn kho are quite unusual in most other Vietnamese broths. If you’ve been eating local soups in Vietnam for a while & then have your first spoonful of bò kho, you’ll likely think you’ve stepped into a Malay, Indonesian or Indian restaurant by mistake.

Many of the spicier dishes in Vietnam are thought to be part of the legacy of the Chàm civilization – a Hindu, Indianized culture that thrived in central Vietnam over a thousand years ago. Vietnam was also a stop on the old maritime spice route; when boats plied between China, India và the Middle East before continuing to lớn Europe. This often had an impact on local cuisine in trading towns, such as Hội An on the central coast, where sailors & merchants (who sometimes had khổng lồ wait months for favourable winds) would try to recreate dishes from their native countries. Another influence on trườn kho might have come from northern Europe, where slow-cooked, warming và hearty stews are common. The French, who effectively ruled Vietnam from the late 19th century khổng lồ 1954, introduced beef lớn the Vietnamese diet (previously cattle were seen as working animals and therefore too valuable lớn consume). So it seems likely that the French – who have some very famous beef stews of their own – had a part lớn play in the creation of trườn kho. Ultimately, as with many Vietnamese dishes, I suspect bò kho is the hàng hóa of many foreign và native influences that eventually came together to create another great Vietnamese soup.

How khổng lồ Eat & Order?

Bò kho is usually eaten for breakfast, but is available throughout the day in many places. A heavy, spicy, meat stew at the start of the day seems lượt thích an odd idea, but such is the balance of rich and light flavours, và the combination of intense spices and tangy lemongrass that it’s more likely to lớn wake you up than weigh you down.

The stew is obviously the main component of the dish, but there are a couple of different ways to have it (all of which are eaten with chopsticks & a spoon), & a few accoutrements you can choose to add:

Bò kho không – Beef stew on its own

Bánh mì trườn kho – Beef stew with a baguette

Mì trườn kho – Beef stew with yellow noodles

Phở bò kho – Beef stew with rice (white) noodles

Hủ tiếu trườn kho – Beef stew with vermicelli noodles

Beef stew on its own (bò kho không) makes for a very light & simple breakfast. địa chỉ a baguette (bánh mì bò kho) for soaking up all the delicious broth – another French influence. Beef stew with yellow noodles (mì bò kho) is the most filling combination: the noodles will either be fresh (mì tươi) or instant (mì gói) – strangely, I prefer the instant variety with my bò kho. Beef stew with trắng rice noodles (phở trườn kho) or vermicelli (hủ tiếu bò kho) are both popular, although in my opinion these white noodle varieties ‘clash’ with the amber broth – I always choose yellow noodles for aesthetic appeal if nothing else!

Once you’ve chosen your preferred combination you can then garnish the stew with sliced red chilli, herbs và a squeeze of lime. The chilli (ớt) will add some heat if the stew is too mild. The herbs (rau thơm) introduce even more complexity lớn the broth and also địa chỉ great colour and texture. There are usually a few herb varieties khổng lồ choose from; my favourites are basil, sawtooth coriander (more for crunch than flavour), rice paddy herb (an aniseed-like taste that works really well with the spices in bò kho) và mint. I tend khổng lồ squeeze a lot of lime on my stew because it cuts the heat and complements the lemongrass.

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One other accompaniment that you’ll find is a tiny dish of salt, pepper and lime (muối tiêu chanh). Mix these together và dip the chunks of beef from the stew in it. I’m not sure of the origins of this simple little dip, but Vietnamese always use it with beef or seafood & it completely transforms anything that touches it!

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Where lớn Eat?

Unlike other popular Vietnamese dishes, very few places specialize only in trườn kho. Instead it is usually sold in soup houses that serve phở – the ubiquitous beef noodle soup that’s as close as Vietnam gets to lớn a national dish. Look out for big signs advertising ‘PHỞ’ và there will often be a smaller sign next khổng lồ it saying ‘BÒ KHO’.

As always, don’t judge a place by its outward appearance: some of the best soups in Vietnam are found in the grubbiest looking eateries in the roughest parts of the country. Of course, this isn’t always the case, và bò kho in particular is a dish that needs lớn be of a certain standard to lớn enjoy. For this reason, I’ve only listed a few places under Locations & some of them are in seldom-visited areas. However, it’s always worth trying trườn kho when it’s available, especially if you’re bored of having phở for breakfast every day. (If you have a favourite place for bò kho anywhere in Vietnam then please let know – I’d love khổng lồ try it).

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Lagi | Saigon | Dalat | Di Linh

QUÁN ĂN MINH KÝ: 61 đường nguyễn trãi Street, Lagi, Bình Thuận Province: 30,000VNĐ ($1.50) a bowl:

This is my favourite place for trườn kho in Vietnam. Located in the small but busy fishing town of Lagi on the Ocean Road (200km east of Saigon), trườn kho has been served here by the same family for three generations. The trườn kho is rich, spicy, punchy và warming. This soup house is named after Madam Minh cam kết who is the owner và chef. She is very welcoming & points out that she’s not the only cook in the family: her son studied cooking abroad và is now a chef at a high-end resort on Mũi Né beach. Cửa hàng Ăn Minh ký specializes in phở and the sign outside doesn’t even mention bò kho! Only one pan of beef stew is made each day, so get here early: most customers have finished by 8am.

Lagi is a likable but dusty town surrounded by green rice fields and long, empty beaches. Tiệm Ăn Minh ký kết is located between the beach & the town: (if coming from the direction of the beach it’s on your right about a 100 metres before the bridge). This is one of those places where both the food & the physical surrounds are part of the experience. Minh ký soup house is an unassuming building with some outside seating on a veranda looking over herb gardens, small fishing holes và roaming cattle. A bowl of beef stew in the bright early sunlight with a strong iced coffee is, for me, the perfect morning. Sadly, the green patch of land next to Minh cam kết has recently been covered in concrete và fenced off for the construction of a new residential area. They’ll be no more gazing over green fields và grazing cows in the cool mornings here, but at least the bò kho will remain the same.

43,000VNĐ ($2) will buy you one of the best breakfasts in Vietnam: bánh mì, mì gói bò kho, coffe đá – baguette, beef stew with instant noodles, và an iced đen coffee – as featured in the video below:


PHỞ QUỲNH: 323 Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1, Saigon: 40,000VNĐ ($2) a bowl: :

As the name suggests this is another place that serves mainly phở, but the bò kho is also very popular here. Phở Quỳnh is a small chain that pops up in a few locations across Saigon. The Phạm Ngũ Lão store is the best-located for most travellers as it is right in the heart of the backpacker area. I usually dislike ‘chain’ versions of classic Vietnamese street food, but the bò kho here is good, thick & meaty, although the broth isn’t quite as exciting as it could be. Phở Quỳnh is always busy with locals and tourists – so they must be doing something right.


Located in Dalat city in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, Liên Hoa has a famous bakery downstairs & a decent restaurant upstairs. The bò kho here is pretty good but a bit mild. What makes it stand out is that the baguettes are served warm & crusty because they are baked on the premises, the meat is tender và the noodles here are fresh (not instant). Dalat’s mountain climate – which is much cooler than lowland areas – is perfectly suited to bò kho: a hot, meaty stew and fresh warm bread in cold weather is a great combination và one that most people wouldn’t associate with tropical Vietnam. Seating is inside on the first floor & there’s a big thermos of artichoke tea on each table – which Dalat is famous for.


TÂM CHÂU CAFÉ: 521 Hùng vương vãi Street, Di Linh, Lâm Đồng Province: 45,000VNĐ ($2) a bowl: :

Tâm Châu Café is in the small mountain town of Di Linh, which is 80km south of Dalat on the main Saigon-Dalat road, Highway 20. The trườn kho here is very colourful & well-presented but a little too watery. Trung tâm Châu ( is the name of a massive Vietnamese tea and coffee company which owns a large plantation in the area. As you’d expect the tea và coffee here are very good và make a great accompaniment to lớn the trườn kho: Try a pot of hot oolong tea (trà ô long) which means ‘black dragon’. The chổ chính giữa Châu Café looks lượt thích a convenience store from the outside, but it’s quite pleasant sitting out on the veranda in the early mornings or evenings when it’s popular with young locals. Lượt thích Dalat, Di Linh has a cool climate which makes a bowl of hearty stew & a pot of hot tea very comforting.