Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bodega Bay Bo Kho

We spent the weekend in Bodega Bay, a seaside community about 50 miles north of San Francisco.  It was a perfect weekend with clear skies, temperatures in the 80s, and whales in abundance just off the coast.  This was a little family retreat, so we ate well, my brother providing a Mexican meal featuring carnitas on Friday, my sister making a delicious Mexican inspired strata for breakfast on Sunday and a dinner that included coconut baked chicken and a spinach salad with persimmons, and Tjing made her famous bubur ayam for breakfast Saturday morning.  Saturday evening I cooked bo kho and made a green papaya salad with grilled shrimp.  My brother had smoked some salmon to accompany our cocktails before dinner and my mother baked a blueberry coffee cake for those staying until Monday morning (though we had a piece for dessert Sunday night).  Our family doesn't go hungry when we get together.

For lunch on Saturday, we stopped at the Spud Point Crab Company to pick up some crab sandwiches and clam chowder.  Literally little more than a shack that is situated just across the street from the marina, the company does a steady stream of business on weekends; when we got there at 11:30, all the tables were occupied. Although chili and hot dogs also make an appearance on the food board, crab is king.  The crab sandwich is a lightly dressed 1/4 pound of fresh, sweet dungeness crab on a soft, unremarkable roll.  They also offer two styles of clam chowder, white and red.  While they also sell crab cakes on Saturday and Sunday, those weren't going to be ready until after 1:00 the day we visited.

Anticipating a cool coastal evening enveloped in fog, I chose to make bo kho for our dinner Saturday night.  Bo kho is a hearty Vietnamese stew flavored with five spice powder, star anise and lemongrass.  As Tjing is not particularly fond fo beef, it's not a dish I make often, but it is a dish I have fond memories of.  We enjoyed a very good version in Dalat in 1994 when we were with our friends Harryanto and his wife Loan and their two young children.  Stews always taste better when the weather is cool, so I thought it would be the perfect dish. Of course, it turned out to be the hottest day of the year, with the heat possibly being responsible for a power line sparking a fire nearby that burned 75 acres of grassland and closed a small stretch of Highway 1 for about 24 hours.  Fortunately, I had paired the bo kho with green papaya salad with grilled shrimp, a salad that is perfect for hot days.

Later that night, the fog did roll in and bejewelled a spiderweb on the deck with beads of dew.  The company, the weather, the house and the food all made for a perfectly enjoyable weekend.


  1. Bread sopping to the last drop stew -- best stew I have ever eaten--the food highlight of the weekend -- even better than my own peanuts and diet pespi mixture, straight from the bottle.

  2. The warm weather didn't interfere a bit with my enjoyment of Bo Kho. It was my first time to try it, and it was delicious!


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