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In 1975, the Nguyen family left Vietnam for America. As Andrea Nguyen recalls, her mother carried a shoulder bag containing a survival kit of family photos, instant noodle packages and a handwritten recipe notebook. Andrea explains how the book and its recipes were a critical way the Nguyens could hold on to their family history—and the history of where they came from. #TheFamiliesThatFedAmerica
Recipe for Bò Kho, a Vietnamese Beef Stew:
– 2 1/3 pounds boneless beef chuck, well trimmed (about 2 pounds after trimming) and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
– 1 hefty stalk lemongrass, loose leaves discarded, cut into 3-inch lengths, and bruised with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife
– 3 tablespoons fish sauce
– 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
– 2 1/2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
– 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
– 1 bay leaf
– 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
– 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
– 2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh tomato or 1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomato
– Generous 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 2 star anise (16 robust points total)
– 3 cups water
– 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander or Thai basil leaves
1. In a bowl, combine the beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, five- spice powder, ginger, brown sugar, and bay leaf. Mix well with chopsticks to coat the beef evenly. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
2. In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, add the beef and sear on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Each batch should take about 3 minutes. Reserve the lemongrass and bay leaf from the marinade and discard the rest.
3. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the onion, and cook gently, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the tomato and salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the mixture is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste. Check occasionally to make sure the tomato mixture is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If it is, stir well and splash in some water.
4. When the paste has formed, add the beef, lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise, give the contents of the pot a bit stir, and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and penetrate the beef. Add the water, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 1 1/4 hours, or until the beef is chewy-tender (a sign that it is close to being done). To test for doneness, press on a piece; it should yield but still feel firm.
5. Add the carrots and return the stew to a simmer, adjusting the heat if needed. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots and beef are tender. (This stew may be made up to 2 days in advance. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate, then bring to a simmer before continuing.)
6. Just before serving, do a final taste test. Add salt or a shot of fish sauce to intensify the overall flavor. Or, splash in a bit of water to lighten the sauce. Transfer the stew to a serving dish, removing and discarding the lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise. Garnish with the Vietnamese coriander and serve.
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