100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 47, Banh Mi Bo Kho at Cafe TH

Photos by Troy Fields
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

If I'm going to Cafe TH, it's for one of three things: the amazing vegan curry, owner/chef Minh Nguyen's three-course prix-fixe dinners on Thursday and Friday nights or -- when it's cold outside -- the banh mi bo kho. Of course, I like almost everything on Cafe TH's menu, but it's these three that are my favorites.

Banh mi bo kho is beef stew at its pinnacle, fiercer than any bœuf bourguignon and heartier than any goulash. If there's one thing the Vietnamese do better than anyone else, it's making soups, including everything from pho to bun bo Hue. In the same way that pho is more or less a spin-off of the French pot-au-feu (it's even pronounced in a similar fashion) -- as most Houstonians likely know by now -- banh mi bo kho is a close relative of the Gallic stew but in a different way.

There are no noodles in banh mi bo kho -- and certainly no tripe -- but the broth is beef-based, resplendent with the scent of anise and black pepper and, if you're in the right place (such as Cafe TH) very dark and rich. It's also thick with carrots and onions and rugged chunks of beef in a tomato base flavored with nose-clearing lemongrass, bright garlic and briny fish sauce, served with a crusty, freshly-baked baguette and -- at the ever-charming Cafe TH -- a smile from Nguyen himself, probably the friendliest restaurant owner in town.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La
No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo
No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's
No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill
No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk
No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island
No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi
No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel
No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods
No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina
No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House
No. 51: Branzino at Lucio's BYOB
No. 50: Beef sweetbreads at Feast
No. 49: Golden Doomba Special at the Rice Box Truck
No. 48: Malted waffle at City Cafe

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Location Info

Cafe TH

2108 Pease St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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My Voice Nation Help

Agreed. With all the changes at TH over the years, this has remained constant.

(I for one liked the old, softer banh mi, however)


About 10 years ago a friend and I were in Thiem Hung eating delicious sandwiches, and the owner brought us a complimentary bowl of this wonderful thit bo kho and a loaf of banh mi bread.  I had never eaten bo kho before.  It was a life changer.  Now it's one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. 

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