oxtail bo kho

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that, while attending the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival, S and I had eaten one of the best oxtail stews we’d ever had in our lives. It was prepared by Chef Mark Jensen of the very famous Vietnamese restaurant Red Lantern, which is in Sydney, Australia. Traditionally, Bo Kho is made with cuts like brisket or shank. It’s also one of those traditional dishes that has no really defined and universal recipe. While certain ingredients might appear in most dishes, all mothers (and grandmothers) and chefs who make Bo Kho seem to have slightly different ways of making theirs. And, of course, every Vietnamese friend you have will swear that his mother’s version is simply the best in the world.

Mark Jensen’s Bo Kho was wonderfully addictive stuff. The broth was so good that even after we’d finished everything that was given to us, S was still rubbing our empty bowl with a piece of baguette in hopes of savouring just a few more drops of this incredible dish. I knew, within bites, that this was a recipe I simply had to recreate.

Fortunately, S and I already own the Red Lantern cookbook. But when I looked at the recipe and read the accompanying essay, I think I, in order, went, “huh?”, laughed out loud, and then went, “what?” and “huh?” a few more times. You see, two of the main ingredients in the Nguyens’ ultra-secret Bo Kho recipe (or at least it was a family secret until the book was published) are a can of Coke and half a box of Laughing Cow cheese! Yup, not quite what you’d expect to find in a traditional Vietnamese recipe.

Of course, that this oh-so-delicious recipe called for such oddball ingredients, I think, only made me want to try making this even more. So, I got to work, whipping up a batch for my family. My father and brother are both oxtail lovers so I knew if I could pull this off, they’d be thrilled. Amusingly, I discussed the recipe with my brother’s wife, the impeccable dessert mistress J. Her theory is that authors Pauline and Luke Nguyen’s father (who created this recipe) was unable to find certain ingredients after first emigrating from Vietnam to Australia and essentially MacGyvered this recipe together from whatever he could find. She contends that the Laughing Cow cheese is probably a replacement for fermented bean curd. Which is actually a pretty good guess. The Coke, not only adds a wonderfully sweet, slightly herbal note to the marinade, but it is also an excellent meat tenderiser.

Regardless of why these ingredients made it into this version of Bo Kho, I am very happy to report that the results are magical. But please don’t just take my word for it. You should definitely try this at home!


About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his three kids!


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9 July 2012


Dear A, that was an epic Bo Kho. Actually, legen…wait for it…dairy! Later that day when we recovered from lunch and were able to think about eating, we got hungry all over again just recalling how perfectly fall-off-the-bone succulent and umami your oxtail was.


Usually those recipes with funny-looking ingredients result in wonderful surprises indeed!

I’m just surprised the marinade is not reused somehow or put it with the broth. Can you confirm this point?

Thansk a lot.

Guindilla, funny you should ask. S also wanted to put the marinade right into the cooking liquid. But the recipe in the Red Lantern cookbook doesn’t use it at all — probably for health and safety reasons. But I do think a couple of ladles of the marinade would add some lovely nuances to the flavour of the broth.

Hi, thank you for the wonderful recipe ! I love Vietnamese food so much that I always looking for the place that they can do authentic Vietnamese food in Singapore . Unfortunatly I haven’t found one yet but instead I found your recipe^^

As a Korean we have very similar dishes called ” GAl Bi Jjim” . Gal bi means beef short rip . It is cooked very slowly and long time so the meat on the bone is just falls a part.
So delicious and addictive that my husband go crazy when he smell it from outside of the door on the way home ^^
I use oxtail instead of short rip because it is so mush more tasty and tender and jucy .

Basically this post make me feel like I want to cook tonight ^^ ( which I should start to cook already )
Btw, I use a can of coke as a secret ingredient . Or a can of pear juice.
I must try this recipe especially with laughing cow cheese . Sounds irresistible !

Thank you .

Colleen, I hope you make this and enjoy it as much as S and I did. 🙂

YuJin, I love Gal Bi Jjim! It would be very interesting to introduce the Laughing Cow cheese into that dish also. You must let me know how it turns out. Thanks for reading.

Hi Aun, trying this tonight with osso bucco as my butcher did not have ox tail. Been marinating overnight. Will report back…..

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