Nom Nom Paleo

Bo Kho (Spicy Vietnamese Beef Stew)

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Vietnamese is, hands-down, one of my favorite cuisines. I love how most dishes combine salty, sweet, sour, and umami. Plus, my favorite items have contrasting temperatures and textures which makes it feel like I’m hosting a party in my mouth.

Unfortunately, I rarely eat Vietnamese food nowadays because there’s sugar in most dishes, it’s grain-heavy (e.g. pho, banh mi, bun, etc.), and almost all fish sauces contain sugar and/or hydrolyzed wheat protein. However, all that’s gonna change now that I’ve gotten my hands on a bottle of Red Boat Fish Sauce.

For the past week, I’ve been poring over my neglected copy of Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, looking for yummy recipes to Paleo-ize. Andrea’s book is phenomenal as are her blogs –- she’s an expert in all matters pertaining to Vietnamese cuisine and Asian dumplings. The first recipe I tackled was Bò Kho (beef stewed with tomato, star anise, and lemongrass) and, boy, was it yummy!

My recipe deviates from Andrea’s in some key ways: I made a number of key ingredient substitutions, and placed the stew in the oven to finish braising (as opposed to cooking it on the stovetop). I love braising stews in the oven ‘cause the temperature stays constant. You don’t have to babysit them!

Here’s what I gathered to feed 6-8 people:

  • 2½ pounds grass fed beef brisket, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch chunks
  • 1 large stalk lemongrass, trimmed of loose leaves, cut into 3-inch lengths, and bruised with a heavy object (e.g. ramekin, broad side of kitchen knife, you get the idea)
  • 3 tablespoons Red Boat Fish Sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons Madras curry powder
  • 2½ tablespoons peeled and microplaned fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons ghee 
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Here’s how I made it:

I preheated the oven to 300°F and gathered and prepped my ingredients.






I tossed the beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, curry powder, ginger, applesauce, and bay leaf into a large bowl…

…and mixed everything well.

I let the meat marinate for about 30 minutes.

I heated the ghee in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and seared the beef in batches until they were nice and browned all over. (Yes, I will try this soon with the no-sear method to see how it turns out).

I placed the seared beef on a new plate…

…and reserved the lemon grass and bay leaf from the marinade.

I lowered the heat to medium-low and tossed in the onions and cooked them until they were softened.

Then, I tossed in the tomatoes and salt to taste and stirred to combine. I put on the lid and simmered the sauce for 12-14 minutes until a paste formed.

Once the paste formed, I added in the beef, lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise.

I raised the heat to medium and stirred everything on and off for 5 minutes.

 Next, I added the water and the carrots to the pot, raised the heat to high, and brought the stew up to a boil. 

I covered the Dutch oven with the lid and placed it in the oven for about 2½ hours or until the brisket was really tender.

At this point, I defatted the stew and transferred it to a storage container to chill in the fridge for a couple days.

When I reheated the stew, I dumped it in a pot and brought it back up to a simmer. I tasted for seasoning and then plated the stew after removing the lemon grass, bay leaf, and star anise.

I topped the stew with some freshly chopped cilantro.


Man, this was a delicious stew – all thanks to Red Boat fish sauce and Andrea Nguyen!

Paleo Eats: 5/4/11

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Argh. I went back to work tonight. Wanna see what I ate up until I headed into the hospital?

This morning was another sunny day in the neighborhood. I love this weather – unless I’m trying to sleep during the day. Curse you, sun!

For breakfast, I finished the last “spicy” chipotle chicken sausage and ate it with a fried egg and nuked frozen broccoli.

At lunchtime, I went to Anatolian Kitchen with my parents and Lil-O and I ordered a combination kebab platter sans rice.

I was only able to finish half of my plate and packed the rest to take to work tonight. I’m actually trying to be more mindful of my portions and only eat until I’m full. It’s tough to do when you inhale your food. I need to slooooooooow down. Er, coconut flakes and macadamia nuts don’t count.

Before going to bed in the afternoon, I iced a couple of grass fed steaks that I sous vided in the morning. Now, I have a bunch of pre-cooked steaks in the freezer that I can reheat during my workweek.

When I woke up in the evening, I started making dinner. I reheated the Bo Kho in a pot on the stove…

…broiled two bunches of asparagus that I finished with a drizzle of lemon juice…

…blitzed a batch of garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes

…and microwave-steamed some super cute baby squash…

…that I tossed with butter and Fox Point seasoning.

Here’s my dinner plate:

After dinner, I packed all my crap for work and drove to work. Another night another dollar…