Instant Pot Bo Kho Time! It’s no secret that I’m kind of obsessed with my Instant Pot. Whenever Mike suggests something for dinner, I’ll counter with the same thing, made in the Instant Pot. A typical conversation goes something like this:
Me: Whatcha feel like for dinner?
Mike: I don’t know…Something that goes good with the beer I’m drinking right now, like chili?
Me: Instant Pot chili?!
Mike: Don’t desecrate the sanctity of chili with Instant Pot.
Me: How about Hainanese chicken rice?
Mike: mmm I love HCR
Me: Instant Pot Hainanese chicken rice!
Mike: What’s the difference between that and regular Hainanese chicken rice? 🤔
Anyway, you get the idea, I’m all about the Instant Pot. I don’t even know why because to be honest, the Instant Pot isn’t really instant and I’m not actually sure if I like the results better than cooking on a stove. I think I like it because everything is contained and because making soup/stock in it is so awesome. I’m hoping that awesomeness will transfer to other dishes. But, I guess if it only ends up being a speedy soup/stock maker, I’m not that bad off.
I wanted to do a sort of side-by-side comparison of two dishes made with the exact same ingredients: one on the stove and one in the Instant Pot. I went with bo kho because the bo kho that I made on the stove was just TOO good and I pretty much knew that this Instant Pot version would lose to the stovetop version.
Okay, I’m actually lying. I didn’t know if it would lose or not. I had high hopes for it. With hopes high, I saved some stovetop bo kho in the fridge and went out to the grocery store to buy ingredients for another batch of stew.
I made this in the Instant Pot almost the same way that I did on the stove. For some reason I stupidly decided to use pearl onions here because they were cute. But, obviously an onion cut into chunks will yield the same effect. Also, I diced up the lemongrass before deciding that whole lemongrass would be the way to go because chopping up lemongrass is an incredible time suck, so skip out the chopping if you do make this.
Other than that, the two main differences were: less liquid (the Instant Pot is a closed environment so there’s no evaporation) and adding the vegetables in at a later time. I added them after the meat was pressure cooked on high for 35 minutes because I was worried that they’d get overcooked. Looking back on it now, I’m sure it would have been fine and if you’re not too terribly concerned about the structural integrity of your vegetables, throw them in at the same time as the meat.
And, the winner was…the stovetop version! The Instant Pot stew did take less time but ultimately the beef that was braised on the stove had better texture. Taste wise they were pretty close but I preferred the stovetop version because it had a more concentrated deeper hint of tomato and the flavors melded a bit more. But, you know, this Instant Pot bo kho was really, really good. If you’re in a hurry, you can get this stew done in under an hour if you’re speedy at prep. And to me, that’s a winner.
Note from Mike: Despite what the recipe says, it took Steph the same amount of time to make both versions; the only benefit to this one is fewer dishes to wash, which indeed is quite a benefit to some people.
Note from Steph: Okay, the extra time was chopping up the lemongrass and I’ve fixed that now!!
Instant Pot Bo Kho/Vietnamese Beef Stew
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 1 hour
total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- 1 lb beef chuck, cubed
- 2 tablespoons flour
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 onion, cut into chunks (I used pearl onions)
- 1 inch piece ginger, sliced
- 1 shallot, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 3 stalks lemongrass, cut into 4 inch lengths and lightly bruised
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 3 cups beef stock
- 3 whole star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
- chopped cilantro
- sliced green onion
- sliced jalapeños
- lime wedges
Lightly pat the beef cubes dry with a clean paper towel then toss in the flour, coating each cube. Dust off the excess and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
With the Instant Pot in Sear mode on high, heat the oil in the insert. When the oil is hot, sear the beef cubes on all sides until deeply golden. Remove and set aside.
If the pot is dry, add a bit of oil, then add the ginger slices, shallot, garlic, and lemongrass and cook, stirring, until the shallot and garlic are soft, but not brown, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and beef stock. Add the beef back in as well as the star anise, fennel, cloves, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. It helps if you put the spices in a cheese cloth or large tea bag for easy removal later.
Put the lid on, set the pressure to high and cook time to 35 minutes. Quick release the pressure when cooking time is completed. Give the stew a stir, then add in the potatoes and carrots and cook on high pressure for 7 minutes. Quick release and then stir in the sugar and fish sauce, adjusting for taste. Enjoy!
Optional: Vietnamese beef stew is rarely thickened, but if you like your stew on the slightly thicker side, make a roux from 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour. Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking until brown and rich. After seasoning the stew, whisk the roux into the stew and bring it to a simmer.
Also, if you want to put in the vegetables all at once, you can! I didn’t because I was worried that they would overcook, but if you’re looking for the ultimate in ease, just put everything at once and cook for 35 minutes on high pressure.