Archive for the 'Bo Kho' Category

Good Girl Dinette – Los Angeles (Highland Park)


As a Vietnamese gal who grew up eating her grandmother’s cooking, knows her way around the Vietnamese kitchen, and even called the motherland home for a year, I could easily dismiss Vietnamese fusion efforts as watered-down versions of the real deal, but truth be told, I’m a big fan. My tremendous love for the culinary traditions of Vietnam extends beyond foggy notions of authenticity. The fact that Vietnamese cuisine is extending its reach outside ethnic enclaves and is evolving in a fresh and meaningful way excites me like you wouldn’t believe.


Once limited to the confines of Chinatown and the San Gabriel Valley, Vietnamese restaurants have recently gained traction in unlikely sections of Los Angeles. The opening of 9021Pho in Beverly Hills a few weeks back inspired me to begin exploring and documenting Los Angeles’ nouveau Vietnamese food movement. While these new establishments are mostly intended for those less familiar with the cuisine, I was curious to experience a new take on the traditional tastes I grew up with.

First stop, Good Girl Dinette.


Located in Highland Park, Good Girl Dinette bills itself as “American diner meets Vietnamese comfort food.” The good girl behind this stylish restaurant is Diep Tran, the former co-owner and chef of Blue Hen. Ms. Tran’s family owns the chain of Pho 79 restaurants in Orange County and Alhambra. Clearly, being a restaurateur is in her blood.

With its exposed brick walls, barely finished tables, and plush mustard yellow chairs, the vibe at Good Girl Dinette is urban and cool. The short menu, which does not contain a lick of Vietnamese, features stews, pot pies, sandwiches, noodles, and soups. All dishes are made using local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. Beat that, Golden Deli.


The Astronomer and I visited the restaurant on a recent Friday night. Even though our waitress warned us that we were ordering far too much food, we still went ahead with three appetizers to start.

First up were the mushroom imperial rolls, also known as cha gio chay ($5.50). Filled with woodear mushrooms, carrots, and glass noodles, the cha gio arrived glistening and hot. The blistered wrappers signaled that Ms. Tran knew when to leave perfection alone. The cha gio were served with large leaves of romaine lettuce, pickled carrots and daikon, and a soy dipping sauce (nuoc tuong). While the flavors were all spot-on, the cha gio could have used more filling because they collapsed a bit with each bite.


Next, an order of rice cakes with crispy scallion tofu ($4.50) arrived. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I placed the order since the term “rice cakes” doesn’t translate into anything specific in Vietnamese cuisine. However, the dish that arrived was totally familiar. The little slabs of deep fried tofu were smothered in a mixture of scallions, oil, and fish sauce, all plopped upon a sticky raft of rice. This dish is one of my mom’s quick and easy dinner solutions, minus the rice cakes.


The final appetizer was a small order of spicy fries ($3). The shoestring russets were seasoned with chopped chilies, garlic, and cilantro. The fries reeked of garlicky goodness, even though the trio of aromatics had difficulty adhering to them. The spice factor made these spuds quite addicting.


Our first entree was a beef stew, also known as bo kho ($9.50). The stew was served with white rice and seasonal greens (brown rice was available for an additional dollar). The bo kho was brimming with braised carrots and tender hunks of beef, all bathed in a fragrant five spice-laced broth. While I enjoyed the stew immensely, it could’ve been slightly less salty.


The bo kho was served with a side of sauteed Chinese broccoli (gai lan).


The final savory course was the curry chayote pot pie ($10). The hearty homemade biscuit was simply perfect and paired extraordinarily well with the classic Vietnamese curry. Easily the evening’s strongest dish.


For dessert, The Astronomer and I shared an almond jelly topped with with seasonal citrus syrup ($5), which came highly recommended from our busser. After indulging in some heavy duty comfort foods, the cool and light jelly was just what our palates desired.

Good Girl Dinette
110 North Avenue 56
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone: 323-257-8980

Bò Kho – Vietnamese Beef Stew


If Vietnamese noodle soups were a high school popularity contest, Pho would be crowned Homecoming King, while Bun Bo Hue would be voted Most Likely to Succeed. Bò Kho, on the other hand, would probably be chilling on the grassy knoll with the stoners; high and oblivious to the hype. Even though Bò Kho has yet to take the culinary world by storm, it is still my all-time favorite noodle soup. Bò Kho is hearty, a bit spicy, a lot savory, and absolutely delicious.

I finally tried my hand at making Bò Kho with my grandma last weekend. As is the case with most of my family’s recipes, everything is prepared “by feel” and “to taste.” Since I know this dish like the back of my hand, these seemingly abstract spicing and seasoning methods are crystal clear. However, for those unfamiliar with this particular noodle soup, I’d highly recommend getting a feel for the flavor profile at a local Vietnamese restaurant or, even better, at your Vietnamese friend’s grandma’s house before preparing it at home.

  • 2.5 pounds beef shank
  • 1/2 pound beef tendon
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 medium onion, additional for garnish
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 7-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Bò Kho powder seasoning (Three Bells or Con Voy brand)
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Vietnamese fish sauce (Red Boat)
  • Cilantro
  • Wide rice noodles, prepared according to package

Grandma and I started our day of cooking at the Vietnamese grocery store. We picked up two beefy parts: tendon and shank. The quantities specified above will make a huge pot of Bò Kho with 10 to 12 servings. If you’re not cooking for a crowd or don’t appreciate ample leftovers, scale down the amount of meat.

Begin by rinsing the shank under cold water to remove any impurities. Next, trim off the thick layer of cartilage surrounding the shank using a sharp knife. Also, trim any large pieces of cartilage within the shank and set them aside.

Cut the shank lengthwise along the grain into 1 ½ -inch chunks and set aside.

The tendon and shank cartilage are extremely tough cuts of meat and thus require a lengthy boiling period in order to tenderize. Boil the tendon and shank cartilage on medium-high heat for approximately an hour and a half in a medium-sized saucepan. Skim off the scum that forms on the surface with a wire skimmer. As the water evaporates, add in enough water to cover the entire surface of the meat.

Once the tendon and shank cartilage is suitably chewy, remove from water, chop into bite-sized chunks, and add to soup.

While the tendon is boiling away, mince the garlic and shallots, finely chop the onion, and peel and cut the carrots into 1-inch chunks. If there are any large chunks of tomatoes, make sure that they are finely chopped as well.

Cook the onions, garlic, shallots, and bruised lemongrass stalk in a tablespoon of vegetable oil on medium heat until soft and fragrant. Add in chunks of shank and saute until the meat begins to brown on all sides, approximately 7 minutes.

Season the mixture with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and add the crushed tomatoes along with juice. Next, add in two tablespoons of Bò Kho seasoning and enough water to cover the surface of the mixture. Let it simmer on medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes in order for the meat to absorb the plethora of seasonings.

After the simmering period, add the carrots and enough water to dilute the spices—approximately four times more liquid than the amount already in the pot. Season with several shots of fish sauce, a light sprinkling of MSG, and additional salt and sugar to taste. Cook the soup on medium heat until the beef is tender and flavors have married, approximately an hour and a half. Right before serving, do a final taste test. Add salt or fish sauce to intensify the overall flavor, or add a bit of water to lighten the broth.

Ladle hot broth over wide rice noodles and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and thinly sliced onions. Bò Kho is also traditionally eaten with a freshly toasted baguette.


Hủ Tiếu Bò Kho

While the world is nuts about phở, my Vietnamese noodle/broth combination of choice is bò kho.

Bò kho is a beef stew deeply infused with star anise and lemongrass. The hunks of meat and carrots in bò kho are tender as can be due to hours of simmering.

Back in California, my family ate bò kho with a wide(ish) rice noodle that sometimes veered toward tender. In Saigon, bò kho is served with a thinner and more al dente rice noodle.

The fabulous bowl of bò kho featured up top is from a hidden stall on Ton That Thuyet Street in District 4. The Astronomer and I, along with his sister Rosalind and gas•tron•o•my reader Shay from LA (!), shared two bowls (10,000 VND each) on our early morning food tour today.

Wonder – Da Nang


August 25, 2007
Cuisine: Vietnamese

160 Le Loi Street
Hai Chau District, Da Nang

Phone: (0511) 824134
Website: none


“Mango Yogurt”


Trung Opla – eggs sunnyside up with baguette


Banh Mi Bo Kho – beef stew with baguette

Our first meal in Da Nang was at Wonder, a trendy cafe around the corner from East Meets West headquarters. Our colleague Craig from Oakland highly recommended the place and joined us for a quick breakfast before we headed off on our staff retreat.

The atmosphere at Wonder is quite Western—complete with high tables and chairs, loud music, and multiple flat screen televisions playing an Eagles concert. I think The Eagles are Vietnam’s favorite rock band. If it weren’t for the food and service, we would have thought we were dining back in the states at a Hard Rock Cafe.

Not in the mood for anything too heavy, I ordered a mango yogurt. What arrived resembled a smoothie and tasted like a fruity and frothy cream cheese. The “yogurt” was a huge letdown. Luckily, The Astronomer found it pleasant and drank most of it.

For my second attempt at breakfast, I decided to go with a more traditional offering, trung opla. The egg whites were deliciously crisp around the edges, while the yolks were runny and perfect for dipping my baguette. After a disappointing start, the trung opla more than made up for the weird yogurt rendition.

The Astronomer’s banh mi bo kho was executed superbly as well. The stew’s deep, meaty flavor really perked him up early in the morning.

The food and ambiance at Wonder is festive, but I’d much rather scour the streets for eats than return here again even though prices were fairly reasonable. Who wants to be hip and cool in Vietnam? Certainly not me.

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