Vietnamese braised beef with lemongrass and star anise

braised-beef_wide Photo: Marina Oliphant

This is my version of the classic Vietnamese beef stew bo kho. It's one of those relatively simple dishes with almost endless subtle variations that would, I imagine, be the subject of fierce debate among aficionados.


1.2kg beef chuck, in 2cm-3cm dice

Salt flakes

2 generous pinches saffron

Vegetable or olive oil

4 sticks lemongrass, white part only

4 long red chillies

4 small red chillies

8cm piece ginger

5 purple eschalots

6 garlic cloves

3 star anise

1 tsp five-spice powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tin tomatoes, drained and crushed

4 tbsp fish sauce

3 tbsp sugar

1 large daikon (Japanese radish), peeled and cut in 4cm rounds

Rice, to serve

Coriander leaves, to serve

Limes, to serve

Peanut, sesame and shallot dust

6 tbsp unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

4 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan (watch carefully, they burn quickly)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt flakes

2 tbsp crispy fried shallots (from Asian grocers)


1. To make the dust, in a mortar and pestle or small food processor, grind the peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar and salt together, then stir through the crispy shallots.

2. Season the beef and toss with the saffron and a little oil.

3. Roughly chop the lemongrass, chillies, ginger, eschalots and garlic, add to a food processor and process to a paste.

4. In a large pot, fry the paste in a little oil about 3 minutes or till fragrant, add the beef and stir. Seal the meat, add the star anise, five spice, cinnamon, tomatoes, fish sauce, sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. Stir. Add two litres of water.

5. Simmer gently for about two hours or until the beef is tender. Add the daikon and cook for a further 30 minutes, until the daikon is tender and the sauce reduced.

6. Serve with rice, coriander and lime. Sprinkle with crispy shallot and peanut dust.