Vietnamese Beef Shank Stew – Bò Kho

Bo kho is a Vietnamese beef stew cooked with beef shanks, Thai basil leaves, carrots, and bo kho spices. Pictorial recipe today is thanks to my mom who made sure I cooked the meat to its tenderness. 

For this pictorial, I doubled up the ingredients for my family of eight and I cooked it int a 10-quart pot. Mom would use one tablespoon of ground bean sauce for every 2 shanks she cooks with, but I don’t use the ground bean sauce when cooking bo kho. I also cooked it on a gas stove at mom’s house versus my glass top stove at home.

  • Prep time: 40 minutes
  • Cook time: about 2 hours


  • about 3 lb beef shanks
  • 1/3 cup Gia Vi Bo Kho Spices (Golden Bell /Pyramid brand)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 lb carrots
  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 1/2 cup ketchup or 1/2 can 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp lemongrass powder or 1 stalk minced
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch + 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp sugar cane
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 2 cans 14 oz chicken broth or beef bone broth
  • 1/2 quart water
  • 1 Tbsp ground bean sauce (optional)
  • fresh Thai basil leaves from one bunch/bag/or at least 1 cupful
  • lime wedges (optional)
  • Notes:
    Mom doesn’t recommend using the canned beef broth because it has a funny salty flavor that is nothing like beef bone broth.


1.. Slice the beef shank into half an inch thick pieces. Minced garlic and chop lemongrass unless lemongrass powder is used.

2. Marinate beef shank with minced garlic, tomato sauce, bo kho spice, black pepper, ground bean sauce, and lemongrass together for at least three hours or overnight with the mixture.

3. Peel and chop carrots into chunky pieces. Chop onion large (red or white) onion bulb into chunky pieces and rinse Thai basil leaves.

4. Heat up 3 Tbsp (olive) oil in an 6-quart pot.  When oil is hot, brown the marinated beef for on high heat.

5.  Add in chicken broth or beef bone broth, water, salt, and sugar.  Bring to a boil and cover the pot with a lid. Cook on low-medium (#5 setting) for about two hours with low constant boil.

6.   After about two hours, add carrots. Continue to cook on medium low (light constant boil) for about an hour (45 minutes for me) or until carrots are soft. For the last five minutes, add in chopped onions, add more sugar and salt to your preference.  Then turn off stove and add the basil leaves. I would cook a big pot and freeze it in quart size containers. (End 6:30pm)

7.  Serve bo kho with Vietnamese French baguette, wide egg noodles, or ramen noodles.

Notes: To cook the wonton egg noodles, I rinse the noodle then cook it in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain in strainer. Add to bo kho when ready to eat.

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