Recipe corner: Thao's mum's bo kho

Thao's mum's bo kho (photo: Red Chilli Kitchen)

Thao fled Vietnam at the age of 12 during the Vietnam War, and grew up in Denmark. Today she lives in Suffolk in the UK, and set up the Red Chilli Kitchen to bring the flavour of Vietnam and her mother’s home cooking to her adopted home. We asked her for her favourite Vietnamese dish.

“My mum is an excellent cook, there are so many dishes that I love but if I have to choose one, it has to be her bo kho.

“With bo kho, in the south we like to add coconut water; coconut palm trees grow everywhere in the south, also we like things more sweet and fruity. My mum likes to use fruit in savoury dishes like slow-cooked fish in coconut water and pineapple stir-fried papaya with ginger, green mango soup, and baby watermelon soup. In central Vietnam, they would add more chilli to the dish and up north they would make it more salty.

“The French influence and our love for fresh greens and herbs make our cuisine fresh, healthy, colourful and different from other Asian countries.”

Bo kho is one of Vietnam's most popular dishes. Whilst no one can agree exactly which part of Vietnam this dish originates from, it was the French who (during their colonial occupation of Indochina) introduced beef to Vietnam. The slow-cooked beef, the carrots and the blend of lemongrass, star anise and paprika makes this a succulent, sweet and fragrant dish.

Due to the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine many will serve this stew with a freshly baked baguette instead of rice.

The Red Chilli Kitchen tomato marinade is also suitable for vegetarians - simply replace the beef with tofu to create a delicious vegetarian stew!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1kg of beef brisket (cut into 3-4cm pieces)
  • 4 heaped tbsp Red Chilli Kitchen tomato marinade
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 litre unsweetened coconut water (do NOT use coconut milk!)
  • 3 large carrots (peeled and cut into large chunks)
  • 1 large onion (peeled and cut into thick wedges)
  • Sea salt


  1. Place the beef and Red Chilli Kitchen tomato marinade into a mixing bowl. Mix well, rubbing the marinade into the beef. Cover the bowl and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or for best results leave to marinate overnight.
  2. Take the beef out of the fridge ½ hour before cooking.
  3. Heat the oil in a thick bottom casserole dish.
  4. Remove some of the excess marinade from the beef and keep it aside to add to the stew later.
  5. Brown the beef in the hot oil, then stir in the onion wedges and the remaining marinade from the mixing bowl.
  6. Pour the coconut water into the casserole dish and bring it to a boil.
  7. Put the lid on the casserole dish and turn down the heat to a slow simmer.
  8. Let the stew simmer gently for about 3½ hours or until the meat is tender. Stir occasionally.
  9. 45 minutes before the end of cooking time add the carrots to the dish.
  10. Season with salt.
  11. Serve with a green salad and either rice or a freshly baked baguette.

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