Vietnamese beef stew Vietnamese beef stew

Five out of the ten times we ate at Pho Hoa Restaurant, my husband ordered the beef stew served with buttered French bread (see photo). I’ve tasted it, liked it, and promised him that, someday, I’d cook Vietnamese beef stew at home. My husband, Speedy, was away for three days on a planning workshop and he’s coming back tonight. I thought that Vietnamese beef stew for dinner would make for a nice homecoming especially since the food at the hotel where they stayed was what he described as “lackadaisical.” Okay, I think he deserves a really good dinner after three days of eating so-so meals.

I must warn you that this is a deconstructed recipe. I did find a recipe for beef stew in one of the three Vietnamese cookbooks that I have but I felt that the list of spices was kind of “blonde.” It happens when you have Westerners cooking their version of Asian dishes and they are not that familiar with indigenous spices. So, what I did was to add more spices according to how my taste buds interpreted the ingredients in Pho Hoa’s beef stew. It’s a pretty simple recipe, really, and it’s the combination of spices that can be quite intimidating rather than the cooking procedure itself. But if you can get over the prejudice against the pungent spices, the cooked dish is just wonderful.

This recipe serves 6 to 8.


  • 1-1/2 k. of beef flank (camto or is it campto?), cut into 2-1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 to 4 c. of meat (pork, beef) broth
  • 500 grams of very ripe fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, finely minced
  • 4 star anise
  • 4 tbsps. of vegetable cooking oil (more if you’re not using a non-stick pan)
  • 500 grams of stewing potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 large carrot, about 300 grams, peeled and cut into wedges


  • 3 green finger chilis
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass (lower parts of stalks only)
  • 4 tbsps. of patis (fish sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. of grated turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. of grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp. of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. each of ground nutmeg, cumin and cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. of chili powder

Peel off the outer stalks of the lemongrass and finely slice (click here for a visual guide). Finely slice the green chilis as well. Place in a bowl with the beef, add the patis (fish sauce), turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cumin and chili powder. Mix well. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. How to cook Vietnamese beef stew

Heat the cooking oil in a wok or pan. Saute the garlic and onions. Add the beef and marinade and cook, stirring, until the beef cubes are nicely browned. How to cook Vietnamese beef stew

Pour in the broth. Add the chopped tomatoes and star anise. Season with more patis. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for an hour and a half to two hours. How to cook Vietnamese beef stew

When the beef is almost done (normally after an hour and a half), add the carrot and potato wedges. How to cook Vietnamese beef stew

Continue simmering for another 30 minutes. Taste and add more patis if necessary. Serve hot with rice or bread.


  1. says

    Your recipe sounds delish! Interestingly enough, a Vietnamese mommy-friend from my son’s piano class gave me a recipe too for pho. She said that star anise gives it the distinct aroma or flavor.

    I was planning to make it sometime next week. I might post a similar version with photos too.

    I truly enjoy visiting your site. I am learning a whole lot about cooking.

  2. says

    Mary, some use cinnamon bark instead of star anise. Am not sure if using both will yield good results.

    Gay, cowboy food, ‘no? Spicy and meaty. Sounds macho. LOL

  3. says

    “blonde” LOL. I love turmeric. Watch out for it to be one of the top 10 ingredients in the beauty industry in 2009 :) . But of course, we Asians knew all it’s other benefits besides being as a cooking spice way before the others did ;)

  4. says

    I struggled with the best description and “blonde” seemed more descriptive than “bland”. hehehe

    Turmeric in beauty products? Talk about going organic. LOL

    • annie says

      hi connie!

      yes turmeric is many beauty products.. one i can recommend you is try having a Javanese Royal Bath at The Spa in any of their branches in Manila(Acropolis, Bel-air, Alabang, Greenbelt, and some in high malls). It makes your skin so soft and takes off body odors and leaves your skin smelling sweet for a couple of days and it evens out skin color.. it is good for brides to be and should have the treatment the day before the wedding.. the ingredients of the powder they use for this treatment include turmeric and a whole bunch of spices, so it is advised to wear dark colored clothes after having the treatment for it will leave some stain on whites… turmeric rules! it makes you and your foodie so yummy!!!:)

      BTW, your site is a blessing! i’m picking a lot of techniques in cooking from you… thanks a lot!

  5. says

    Oh yes, pang-alis daw ng pimples ang turmeric. Just make a paste with milk and rub. That’s according to my Nepalese friend. Dunno if it works though.

  6. misao says

    when making broth for beef (beef/wanton) noodle soup, we usually put cinnamon bark, cloves AND star anise, but not much as the flavor they impart are quite strong. for a liter of broth, say a small piece of cinnamon bark, 2 pcs of start anise and about 4 cloves.

  7. Lis says

    Back in the 70s, my lola from Bacolod used to make my facial paste once a week with 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp. milk & half slice of kalamansi. The result was good. My pimples dried up immediately and my skin was smooth.

  8. Carla says

    I am cooking it right now while commenting on this post of yours Ms. C. Kaya lng wla ako ng 4 ingridients – star anise, cumin, nutmeg and cloves pero bibili ako tomorrow. mabuti na lng meron akong nung iba. yun na mmuna ang gagamitin ko for now. we have frozen paratha and since umiwas ang hubby ko sa kanin, yun ang magiging ka partner ng viand na ito. its simmering right now, I’ll be adding the potatoes and carrots after. :) its good your site is always available, its a relief really. hirap kasi magisip ng lulutuin araw araw. thanks a lot Ms. C. for inspiring us all the time with your recipes. Napakasweet nyo nman kay Speedy.!

  9. tess medina says

    You’re truly a blessing to every working Mom who would like to save money by home-cooking instead of eating out. I love to experiment in cooking even though cooking does not like me very much (my trial-and-error method does not always bring good results, don’t know why!). But with your detailed explanations YOU’RE THE BEST..! You should make your own cookbook = I will be your #1 patron.

  10. Gao says

    Hi. I came across your recipe and would love to try this dish this weekend. I just had a question. In your recipe, you advised to add the “patis”. What is that because I didn’t see “patis” as part of the above ingredient list…:)

    Thank you.

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