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Today's Case

Vietnamese Beef Stew, Hu Tieu Bo Kho

Re: Hu Tiu Bo Kho Noodle w/ beef chunk cooked in brine
From: Andrea
Date: 5/8/2020, 9:32 AM

On 5/7/2020 8:30 PM, andrea wrote:

Hi, Uncle Phaedrus!

I hope you are staying healthy!  It's Andrea in Houston again.

Onto my question.  As I'm suffering from allergies, I am longing for the 
Hu Tiu Bo Kho that used to be served at the Van Loc restaurant here in Houston.  
The restaurant closed in 2014 and people still lament its closure. (I think it 
says a lot for a restaurant when it had to close early because it ran out of 
ingredients because loyal customers swarmed for last meals before they closed.)

I realize that Bo Kho is basically just beef stew and every family probably has 
its own version.  Van Loc described theirs as "beef chunk cooked in brine."  
What I loved about theirs was the nice oily broth that was salty and spicy.  
It cleared my sinuses and soothed my sore through during allergy season.  
I never had it with the bread.  Only the vermicelli.

My questions are:  what would make it spicy?  I looked at lots of different 
recipes and most looked rich and beefy without being spicy. I think you can even 
buy commercially prepared spices to make the soup.  The common ingredients seemed 
to be beef, fish sauce, tomato paste, carrots, star anise, lemon grass, onions, 
and 5 spice powder. Some used coconut water. What would the function of that be?  
Some used apple sauce.  What does apple sauce do in a soup?  I didn't think that 
Chinese 5-Spice Powder alone would create the "heat."  I did see a couple of 
recipes that included paprika.  Would hot paprika do the trick?  What would be 
the brine?  The fish sauce?

Thanks for your help!

Hi Andrea,

Good to hear from you! We're good here.

Thanks for that link. I'll take a look at those cookbooks.

I did not have any success finding the Van Loc recipe. No, paprika alone would not give it an appreciable amount of heat.  I found a couple of  hu tieu bo kho recipes with some heat. See these links:

With curry powder, cayenne pepper, paprika: Hu Tieu Bo

With chili powder & curry powder: Bo Kho

Sate has finger hot chilies, thai hot chilies(!), red chilies: Vietnamese Sate Sauce

These call for egg noodles, but you could use vermicelli, if you wish.

That last recipe is for Vietnamese sate sauce, and it actually goes with the recipe just above it. If you use that glebe kitchen recipe for hu tieu bo kho and also make the sate and add a bit of sate to the stew before eating, I think you'll find that your sinuses have become wide open...

If that seems too hot, try the hu tieu bo kho recipe alone, without the sate, or the other recipe, which looks to be much milder.

You might be interested in more about sate, which I researched here: 1-3-2020


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