Instant Pot Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

Bò Kho (Beef Stew)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
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A Vietnamese beef stew like Mama makes

Ingredients

  • 500 g (~1 lb) beef shank, cut into 1.5cm piece (~3/5″) thick piece
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 small onions, one for stew, chopped loosely, plus one for serving, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsps Shaoxing/Shao Hsing cooking wine
  • 10 cm (4″) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 1 cm (1/5″) pieces
  • 5 Tbsps tomato paste
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 star anise pieces
  • 2″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, lightly pounded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 6 cups beef stock (low sodium or unsalted)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 Tbsps fish sauce
  • Fresh basil, for serving
  • Fresh cilantro, for serving
  • Fresh lime pieces, for serving
  • 4 Bánh mì (Vietnamese baguettes), for serving

Directions

Melt the butter in Instant Pot on “Sauté” setting, add pieces of beef shank in batches, browning the pieces, then setting aside. Add garlic and onion, stirring to cook until browned and onion softens. Add Shaoxing and stir. Make a packet using a piece of cheesecloth, and wrap the bay leaves, star anise, cinnamon stick, and lemongrass pieces, tying tightly. Add packet to the pot with the ginger, tomato paste, and stock. Stir well until tomato paste has mostly dissolved. Add carrots and potatoes. Close Instant Pot, sealed on “Meat/Stew” setting and cook for 50 minutes. Release pressure, add fish sauce, stirring well. Ladle into bowls and serve with sliced onion, basil, cilantro, lime pieces and baguette.

And now for the details…

This post is an ode to my mother in law. Of the many delicious Chinese and Vietnamese dishes that Mama makes for us, Bò Kho is one of my absolute favourites. And because Mama knows it’s my favourite, she makes it for us fairly often. However, during COVID isolation, we were cut off from Mama and Dad, as they are older and we wanted to make sure they were safe. And not only were we cut off from seeing them in person, we were also cut off from Mama’s delicious cooking! Which meant… I needed to figure out Bò Kho at home. I tried to get this recipe as close as I could to Mama’s, and it’s fairly close, but it’s still not a true replacement for the bowls of love she sends home with us 🙂

This stew is perfect for the type of weather we have outside right now. It’s fall here, and it’s cloudy, raining (oh god, it just started to snow) and there’s a distinct chill in the air, perfect for a nice, warming, well-spiced stew that seems to heat you up from the inside.

I have had different styles of Bò Kho at many different Vietnamese restaurants. The broth will range from thin to thick (the thick being similar to what one would expect from a western style stew), the spice combinations are often slightly different at each one, and the cut of beef used varies from shank to chuck to brisket. My favourite, of course, tends toward the style that Mama makes, which is a thinner (but very flavourful) broth and nice pieces of beef shank.

The shank is an extremely sinewy piece of meat. It comes from the leg of the cow, and because it is such a well-used muscle, it has quite a bit of connective tissue (collagen) marbled in with the meat. If you’re used to your beef being primarily for steaks, you might look at this cut and think “yuck, that is going to be one chewy piece of meat.” But stay with me here, because cooking this connective tissue low and slow (and in liquid) allows it to break down so that is becomes this rich, velvety bite. TBH, I like this cut in the stew for that soft, tender bite, even more so than the meat itself.

Finding beef shank in your local grocery store is likely not going to happen. I found ours at our asian supermarket, but in most western grocery stores, this cut is not frequently found. You can ask the butchers behind the desk to see if they can bring it in for you, or find a local butcher or specialty grocery store to get this cut of meat. This if often sold with the bone-in as well, but I prefer the boneless for this stew. Make sure to cut the pieces across the grain, as shown in the photo above to get the right “bite” once the meat is done cooking.

Let’s get into it, shall we? We start by heating up our Instant Pot to “Sauté” and melt the butter. Cook the beef pieces, turning halfway, to get a nice browned piece of meat. We will be cooking the beef pieces in batches so we don’t overcrowd the pot, setting aside the meat onto a plate after it has browned and adding the next batch. The reason we do not want to overcrowd the pot is we want to brown the meat, and get that richness to add to the stew, rather than the steaming that would result from having too many pieces in the pot. Don’t worry about trying to cook the beef pieces all the way through, we just want them to brown. They will be spending a lot of time in heat with the stew, so we do not need to worry about cooking them through just yet.

Once the pieces of meat have all been browned and set aside, add the garlic and one of the onions (that has been loosely chopped) to the pot. Stir until the garlic has just started to brown and the onion have started to soften. Then add the Shaoxing wine, stirring to help stir up some of the browned bits of meat on the bottom of the pot into the liquid, and cook until the wine is almost fully reduced.

Shaoxing wine is a rice wine originating from the city Shaoxing in China. You will be able to find it in most Chinese markets, or possibly in your own grocery store if you have a decent selection of asian cooking products. If you cannot find it, substitute with dry sherry or Marsala instead. If you want to know more, The Woks of Life blog has a great post about it! And to make it easier, here is a link to their post about Shaoxing Wine 🙂

Next, add the meat pieces back into the pot and pour the broth over top, stirring well to bring up any additional browned bits into the liquid. Beef, chicken, pork, or veal broth can all be used in this case. You can turn the pot off for now, because we are going to get our aromatics ready for the stew. In this recipe, we have quite a few aromatics helping to flavour the broth: star anise, lemongrass, cinnamon, bay leaves and ginger. When you are buying the ingredients for this dish, so not confuse star anise with anise seeds. They are actually from two different plants, and while they are very similar in smell/flavour, star anise is a quarter-sized, star-shaped dried fruit that imparts its flavour to the broth over time, and the recipe would not be quite the same with 5 little anise seeds 🙂

I ended up not wanting to use a whole cinnamon stick for this recipe, so I just snapped a cinnamon stick in half to get the appropriate length.

Because the majority of these aromatics are not something you want to chew and eat once you’re done the stew, I chose to wrap them in a little bundle of cheesecloth so I could easily pick it out once the cooking was done. You can also just add them right into the stew as is, and pick all the bits out later. But I am lazy, and while Mama typically picks these ingredients out for us before serving (yes, we are that spoiled), I wanted to make it as easy as possible to remove them before eating. I cut a 15 cm/6″ piece of cheesecloth and wrapped up the bay leaves, anise, lemongrass and cinnamon stick together, then secured the bundle with a piece of cooking twine. I threw the ginger into the stew on its own, outside of the bundle, because I actually enjoy the bites of ginger pieces. But if you are not interested, you can make a larger cheesecloth bundle and add the ginger in with the rest.

Now’s the time to get that stew cooking! Add that tasty little bundle and the ginger into the pot with everything else. At this time, we are also going to add the tomato paste, stirring well to mix it into the broth, and then the carrots and potatoes. If you want to try something a little different, you can use taro root instead of potatoes. It is a root vegetable very similar to potato in texture, and Mama has used this instead on a number of occasions.

Next, close and seal up your Instant Pot, setting it to “Meat/Stew” setting for 50 minutes. Now, you can always do all of this without an Instant Pot. The sautéing bits would be done on medium-high heat, and at this point, we would turn the heat to a low simmer on the stove (pot covered). But you are going to need to increase the cooking time to at least 3 hours in order to get the flavours to fully meld and for that beef shank to become tender instead of chewy.

Once done cooking, release the pressure and open up that glorious pot of deliciousness. One last thing to do before ladling the soup into bowls: add the fish sauce and stir well. You can always add the fish sauce before closing up and cooking, and still get the umami-hit, but you will lose the complexity and added flavour that the uncooked fish sauce provides.

Serve up the bowls with the fresh basil, cilantro, onion and lime wedges on the side. This allows folks to add however much of these fresh aromatics as they would like (especially the cilantro, since we all know someone out there who can’t stand the taste :P). Dig in, dipping torn pieces of the bánh mì into the broth as you slurp away at the stew. For extra authenticity and to match exactly as Mama serves it, mix together fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt and white pepper in a small, shallow dish and dip the beef into the mix as you eat.

Happy eating.

Pork Kimchi Stew (Kimchi Jjigae)

Kimchi Jjigae

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 700g (1.5 lbs) pork belly, cut in slices
  • 300g (2/3 lbs) kimchi, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, shredded
  • 2 Tbsps soy sauce (dark)
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 2 Tbsp gochujang
  • 3 cups chicken or pork broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch green onion, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 package shimeji mushrooms, trimmed
  • 1/2 pkg (170g) medium tofu, sliced
  • butter

Directions

Sauté the pork on medium-high heat until browned. Add the chopped kimchi, reserving the kimchi liquid, and stir regularly until kimchi is heated fully. Add the water and broth. Add the soy sauce, mirin, gochujang, and kimchi liquid. Stir and cook until the stew starts to simmer. Stir in the shredded garlic. Add the mushroom and the green onions, stirring to mix. Lay the tofu across the top of the stew, spooning some of the stew over the tofu to coat. Cover the soup and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the mushrooms and tofu are cooked through. Spoon the stew into bowls and drop about 1 tsp of butter on the top of each bowl. Serve with a bowl of white rice.

And now for the details…

I know what you must be thinking… ummm… Emily, I didn’t realize you were Korean…? No, no I am not. And what do I know about authentic Korean cooking? Not much at all, except that what Korean food I have eaten is delicious and I will do what I can to recreate it. Particularly this stew. This stew was love at first bite when I tried it at Ogam Chicken. It has all the things you could hope for in a stew. The flavour is a mouth-watering combination of salty, umami-rich, spicy, and tangy. With the little chunks of pork, kimchi, and tofu, this stew is also quite hearty. Pair it with a bowl of white rice and it is pure magic.

Eating kimchi jjigae in restaurants, you often get it served in a hot stone bowl called a dolsot. I do have a dolsot that I received as a gift. But alas, I still have not used it, as it does not work so well (i.e. at all) on an induction stove. I will need to get myself a hot plate to resolve this issue! Until then, a heavy bottomed pot will need to do the job.

Cooking with new ingredients is always both scary and exciting. There were a number of ingredients in this recipe that I had never used for cooking until I made this stew the first time.

Gochujang, which is a chilli paste, was a brand new ingredient for me the first time I made jjigae. I find it more earthy than spicy, although it definitely does provide some heat. It’s a deep, rich red and has an almost smoky yet sweet quality to it that really deepens the flavour of the dish.

Kimchi itself was something I had eaten on a number occasions, but had never cooked with at home. My favourite is baechu kimchi, which is made from the whole Napa cabbage. Luckily, it is usually the easiest to find in stores as well. Kimchi can be quite different brand-to-brand, and the store I get my ingredients from also does some fresh house-made kimchi as well. They will vary in the level of tartness, saltiness, and spiciness, which will change the way the stew ultimately tastes. Play around with the different kinds to find one you enjoy.

Let’s get to cooking.

Start by preparing your ingredients. Cut the green onions into 1″ pieces and set them aside. Take the kimchi out of its liquid, allowing most of the liquid to drain back into its container (set the liquid aside, we will be using that!), and chop the kimchi roughly to get some bite-sized pieced. Set the kimchi aside. Trim the mushrooms and set them aside. I use shimeji mushrooms because I enjoy them so much, but if you prefer white or brown button mushrooms, simply cut them into quarters or halves, depending on the size of the mushrooms (cut them into 1/8th’s if they are really big). Slice the tofu into 5-6mm (~1/4″) slices and set aside. Lastly, cut the pork belly into small, bite-sized slices.

We start by cooking the pork belly. Many recipes will call to add the pork belly to the broth once it is prepared, but I like cooking the pork first, getting a nice build up of the pork fat as it renders, and caramelizing the meat slightly. Add the pork belly to your pot with the heat set at medium-high. Sauté until the meat has cooked through almost completely and has started to brown. Stir this regularly, as I find the pork belly will try to stick to the bottom of the pot. If there is an large amount of fat pooling in the bottom of the pot, drain some, but keep the majority of the fat in the pot.

Once the pork belly is cooked through, add the kimchi to the pot, stirring regularly until any liquid that remained with the kimchi has cooked off and the kimchi is heated all the way through.

Next we start to add our liquid. Add the broth and the water, stirring while paying particular attention to the bottom of the pot to help stir in any of the caramelized pork that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Then, add the soy sauce, mirin and gochujang. Add a tablespoon or two of the kimchi liquid into the pot and allow everything to heat up until the stew starts to simmer.

Taste test the broth at this point to see if it is meeting your taste preference. Add more kimchi liquid if you want to increase the spiciness, saltiness and tartness of the broth. Now is also the point when you will add the shredded garlic to the stew. Lower the temperature to about medium or medium-low.

Next, add your mushrooms and green onions, and stir them into the broth. Then lay the tofu across the top, and spoon some of the broth over the tofu to coat it. I forgot to buy tofu the first time I made this for photos, so please excuse the, er, temporary costume (i.e. pot) change in this next photo.

Cover the pot an allow the stew to… well… stew… for about 8-10 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the tofu is heated through completely and everything is a nice, bubbly container of deliciousness.

Finally, we eat. Spoon the stew out into bowls, top with about 1 tsp of butter per bowl, and serve on its own or with a small bowl of cooked white rice.

Happy eating.

Chilli con Carne

Chilli con Carne

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Ingredients

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 680 g (1.5 lbs) very lean ground beef
  • 450 g (1 lbs) ground pork
  • 800 ml (28 oz) diced canned tomatoes
  • 400 ml (1 2/3 c.) beef broth
  • 540 ml (19 oz) can red kidney beans, drained
  • 540 ml (19 oz) can white kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 1.5 Tbsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire
  • 250 ml (1 cup) beer

Directions

On stove: Using a heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat, then add the shallots and garlic, sautéing until softened. Add the beef and pork, stirring regularly, and breaking apart large chunks, until cooked through. Add the rest of the ingredients, turn the temperature down and simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the corn within the last 5 minutes.

In Instant Pot: Set the pot to Sauté, add the oil and sauté the shallots and garlic until softened. Add the beef and pork,stirring regularly, and breaking apart large chunks, until cooked through. Add the rest of the ingredients, set the pot to Meat/Stew, and close under sealing for 15-25 minutes. Flip back to Sauté and add the corn, stirring for a few minutes until the corn is cooked.

Once done, serve with preferred toppings, like avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.


And now for the details…

Even though it’s already May, we have been hit up with some pretty chilly weather. And so I figured what better meal for chilly than… chilli. Oh I am soooo witty *rolling eyes*.

This recipe was interesting to measure and document for me, since chilli is something I have been making sans recipe since I was kid. When I was little, I would be so insistent on “helping” while my mom cooked. When she cooked chilli, it was never off a recipe card, and it has become the same for me. A bit of an eyeball on quantities, cook a little longer, taste, adjust.

The bit of research I did on chilli was interesting. There is a lot of debate on the origins of the well known stew. Whether the true origin of chilli was as a pack meal, the angelic vision of Sister Mary Ágreda, or the preparation of defeated conquistadors by the Aztecs (ewwwwwwww), it seems as though the debate will continue. After learning more, I also apologize to the hardcores on the addition of beans, which I understand is also a matter of huge debate. But the simple fact that I am spelling it “chilli”, not “chili” is probably a clear indication that we are pretty far north from the origin (which has been determined as northern Mexico/southern Texas), and since I am Canadian, of course I have to apologize at some point here! All in all, chilli has become a staple for many, with chilli competitions across the globe, canned chilli being readily available in most grocery stores, and several pop culture chilli references (El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer, anyone?), it is a popular dish that will likely never be agreed upon, but readily enjoyed by all.

For this version, I have given instructions for both on the stove or in an Instant Pot. It is typically a stove dish for me, but I wanted to see how this did in the Instant Pot to see if I could get that “long simmer” flavour in a short period of time. It seems to have worked out quite well! For the purpose of these detailed instructions, I used the Instant Pot, but following the instruction on the stove would work just as well, it will just need a bit more simmering time.

Let’s start by sautéing the shallots and garlic in our pot (either Sauté setting for Instant, or medium-high heat on the stove). Once the shallots have softened, add the meats, sautéing until they are mostly cooked through, and stirring regularly to break the ground meat apart so it does not form into large chunks.

Next, we add the tomatoes, beans (drain and rinse them first!), spices, and Worcestershire sauce. Give it all a good stir and make sure everyone in there are close, personal friends. If in the Instant Pot, close it up on Sealing, set it to Meat/Stew and cook for 15-25 minutes. If on the stove, turn the heat down to a simmer, and let it cook for 45-60 minutes, and stir occasionally so that the meat does not burn on the bottom of the pot.

If you are using the Instant Pot, once the pressure cook is done, set the pot back to Sauté. Add the corn and cook until the corn is cooked. This should only take 3-5 minutes. I found this corn and jalapeño mix at my grocery store and thought it would be a great add to chilli! The jalapeños added their slight heat and flavour, which probably would have been lost if added at the beginning and stewed. If you are cooking on the stove, this step would happen in the last 5-ish minutes of cooking.

Now that your chilli is ready, ladle into a bowl, top with your toppings of choice (cheese, avocado and sour cream (or crème fraîche!) are the preferred options in our house) and enjoy!

Happy eating.