Mom’s Home Cooking

mom's vietnamese cooking mom's vietnamese home cooking mom's vietnamese cooking mom's vietnamese cooking

Without a doubt the best part about going back home to Texas is all the awesome food, in particular, my mom’s home cooking. Our first request when my brother came to the airport to pick us up was to go to a part of town we nicknamed “the Miracle Mile” due to the fact that all of our favorite local fast food restaurants are located in the same cluster of buildings: Whataburger, Taco Cabana, and Rudy’s. We had good intentions: just some homemade tortillas with a bowl of queso, but well, you only live once. We ended up stopping by Whataburger as well to try their special “black label” spicy ketchup — with fries and a burger of course.

The next day we swore off fast food and detoxed with a delicious juice/shake from Just Juice (if you’re in the North Houston area and are into juicing definitely stop by — the owner is pretty awesome). For the remainder of the trip we just stuck to left over wedding food and Mom’s home cooking, which is better than anything you can buy anywhere.

We had major Vietnamese food withdrawal after leaving Houston, so Sly cooked up several batches of Bò Kho Xả, or Vietnamese beef stew with lemongrass. We have been eating it two weeks in a row now. Still tastes delicious. Still reminds me of home.

RECIPE | Vietnamese beef stew with lemongrass / bo kho xa


  • 2 to 2¼ pounds well-trimmed boneless beef chuck, cut into 1½-inch chunks
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, loose leaves discarded, cut into 3-inch lengths and bruised with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife
  • 3 tablespoons Red Boat fish sauce (it’s more expensive, but once you try it, you won’t be able to go back to “Three Crabs” fish sauce.
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2½ to 3 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 1 yellow onion or 8 ounces shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomato in purée (1½ cups)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 whole star anise
  • About 3½ cups water
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro and Thai basil

1. In a bowl, combine beef, lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, five-spice powder, brown sugar and bay leaf. Mix well to evenly coat. Set aside to marinate 30 minutes.

2. In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, sear beef on all sides, then transfer to a plate. Each batch should take about 3 minutes total. Reserve lemongrass, bay leaf and leftover marinade.

3. Lower heat to medium-low, add onions and cook gently, stirring, until fragrant and soft, 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and salt. Cover and cook until mixture is fragrant and has reduced to a rough paste, 12-14 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure tomato is not sticking to bottom of pan. If it is, stir well and splash in some water.

4. When a paste has formed, add beef, reserved marinade ingredients and star anise. Give a big stir, then cook, uncovered, to meld flavors, about 5 minutes. Add water, bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat. Simmer until beef is chewy-tender (close to being done), about 1¼ hours. Press on a piece; it should yield but still feel firm.

5. Add carrots and return to simmer, adjusting heat if needed. Cook, uncovered, until carrots and beef are tender, about 30 minutes. (Everything up to this point can be done up to 2 days in advance, then cooled, covered and refrigerated. Bring to a simmer before continuing.)

6. Before serving, taste. Add salt or a shot of fish sauce to intensify flavor, or splash in water to lighten. Remove and discard lemongrass, bay leaf and star anise. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with herbs.


Home Cooking – Texas Edition

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