Thit bo kho (Vietnamese beef stew with basil and star-anise)
- 500 g (1.25 lb) lean beef, cut into bite-sized chinks
- 2 teaspoons annatto seeds, ground to a powder (see chef's note)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 shallots, peeled and chopped
- 4 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 2 bird chillies, crushed if dried, chopped if fresh (leave the seeds in if you like it spicy
- 2 medium sized lemon grass stems, bruised to release the aroma
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 4 whole star anise, dry-roasted and ground to a powder in a spice grinder or coffee machine
- 700 ml (1.25 pints) hot beef or chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons nuoc mam
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon jaggery or brown sugar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- About 15 chopped basil leaves, stems removed
- 1 medium onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
- Fresh coriander leaves roughly chopped, stems discarded
- Heat the oil in a wok, add the shallots, garlic, chillies, annatto powder, and lemon grass and stir-fry until the onions are translucent and the spices are releasing their aromas.
- Add the curry powder and three quarters of the star anise powder, tip in the beef and stir fry it for a few minutes.
- Add the stock, soy sauce, nuoc mam and the sugar.
- Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour by which time the sauce should be reduced a little and the meat tender.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, stir in the remaining star anise powder and the basil leaves
- Serve in bowls garnished with sliced onion and coriander leaves
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