Vietnamese Bo Kho beef stew with carrots


2 lbs boneless beef chuck (any type of stew beef cut is ok), cut into 1.5 inch cube
2 stalk lemongrass, but into 2 and bruised the white part,
1 tablespoons fish sauce
1 table spoon of organic sugar (white or brown should be ok, use about 3/4 of tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
1 cup of tomato sauce (250-300 ml is good)
4-5 medium carrots, peeled, cut slanted into 1 inch pieces
2-3 star anise
3 cups water
1 cup of coconut water (omit if doens't have any and up the water to 4 cups.  There should be just enough water to cover the meat in the pot)

1 1/2 tablespoon of fish sauce (I used the 3 Crabs brand)
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder (or 1 table spoon of the packaged Bo Kho powder)
2 teaspoon of paparika
1 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 1/2 table spoon of minced shallot
a dash or two of pepper

Thai basil

Mix the marinating mix, 1 1/2 table spoon of fish sauce, 5-spice powder, paparika, ginger, shallot, pepper together, pour over beef cubes and marinate for at least 3 hours, preferably over night.

Over high heat, in a non stick pan or pot, heat the 2 tablespoon of oil and sear the beef pieces (in batches) quickly then remove and put into a slow cooker.

Using the same pan or pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil, cook the coarsely chopped onions until translucent then add tomato sauce and lemon grass and star anise.  Add in a teaspoon of salt.

Pour this mixture over the beef cubes in the slow cooker then add the water, coconut water, and 1 table spoon of fish sauce and the sugar.

Let it cook on low for about 5-6 hours (longer is ok, if you plug in before heading out to work).  1-2 hours before serving, add the carrots to the slow cooker.  The beef and the carrot pieces should be tender, they should fall apart when cut in !  Before serving, taste and adjust by adding more fish sauce or sugar (if you like it sweet)

Remove lemongrass and star anise before serving.  You can top the dish with cilantro or basil.  Enjoy with french bread, baguette or over thin rice noodles or even eat with rice !

If you don't have a slow cooker, cook the stew in a pot and let it simmer on low for about 3 hours, or until the beef is tender.  Add the carrot an hour before the beef is done.  You don't want to add the carrot in too early because it will get too soft and mushy.

I like the sauce thin, the way it is, but if you like it to be thick, like stew thick, you can achieve that by adding in a LITTLE mixture of cornstarch or tapioca starch (starch mixed with water).  If you do this, remember to add the mixture in a bit at a time, don't pour all in at once because it might thicken up the sauce way too much and will taste starchy.