Banh Mi Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

¼ cup of canola oil
3 tbl of annatto seeds
½ of a white onion, diced
1 whole garlic, minced
2.5 lbs beef chuck roast (cut into cubes)
3 tbl tomato paste
1 tbl curry powder
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
3 lemon grass stalks
3-4 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 tsp sugar
4 tbl fish sauce
10-12 shallots, minced
3 carrots, chopped
2 tsp salt
1 lime
coriander, for garnish

Heat oil in a non-reactive frying pan. When the oil is hot enough, add your annatto seeds. Cook the seeds until they have bled most their color, then discard the seeds and save the oil.
In a large bowl, throw in onions, 4-5 minced garlic cloves, and beef. Stir in ~3 tbl of the annatto seed oil mix, and marinate for 1-1.5 hours in the fridge.
After marinating is complete, sear the beef (onions and all) in a frying pan. Try to do this in batches to avoid steaming.
In a stock pot, throw in the rest of the annatto seed oil mix, the rest of the minced garlic, and tomato paste. Cook for about 1 minute on medium heat.
Combine the seared beef, curry powder, cinnamon stick, star anise, and lemon grass into the stock pot. Mix well.
Add in 3-4 cups of water. Just enough to cover the top of the beef.
Mix in bay leaf, fish sauce, sugar, ginger, chili, and salt.
Bring to a gentle boil and braise for 1-1.5 hours.
Add in carrots and shallots, and stew on low for another hour, or until carrots have softened.
Before serving, garnish with coriander, and give each bowl a squeeze of lime.

**A word of advice: Although you might be tempted, try your best not to add anything to adjust the taste of the bo kho until 15 minutes before serving. This gives the spices time to fully release their flavors. And also, although the stew may seem watery at first, it will thicken by the time you are ready to eat, so try your best not to worry.

Annatto seeds can be purchased from Herbies or most asian supermarkets.

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