This Vietnamese beef and watercress salad is my all time favourite salad recipe. It has chunks of pan seared beef on a bed of crispy watercress and is dressed in a tangy Vietnamese nuoc mam sauce. It is a great way to to get more vegetables in your diet and is perfect for anyone looking for an easy and healthy meal for family or friends.
In recent months I have noticed that the large grocery store near my home began stocking watercress in its fresh food section. This is great news! In the past, they were only available at a selected number of Asian groceries which I found a little annoying because I absolutely hate travelling for a few ingredients. This is mostly due to the ridiculous amounts of anxiety I experience when trying to find a car space in a crowded parking lot and to a smaller degree my love affair for being lazy.Vietnamese Nuoc Mam Dressing Vietnamese Beef and Watercress Salad
So, today I have decided to make watercress the star of this post by sharing with you my beef and watercress salad recipe. This dish is another traditional family recipe that has been handed down and tweaked over the years.
In the past I have made many variations to this dish. Similar to a Thai beef salad I have tried slices of medium rare beef steak and on my lazy days have substituted expiring store bought leafy green salad mix for the watercress. They all turned out great and removed much of the prep work. But in saying that, the most delicious version of this salad is the original with watercress and marinated beef cubes.Vietnamese Beef and Leafy Green Salad Mix
My Tips for Success
- Watercress does not store very well. I try to use it up with 1 or 2 days after purchasing.
- To store watercress, wrap it in a tea towel and put it in the vegetable section in your fridge. This should keep it good for at least 2 – 3 more days.
- When cooking the beef, do not over crowd the pan. This will steam the beef and dry it out. I suggest cook in batches if your pan is not big enough.
- Resist constantly moving the beef cubes around the pan. Give ample time on each side of the beef cubes to sear and colour.
- I prefer to use cherry tomatoes over normal tomatoes because it holds the juice in. Normal tomatoes once sliced tend to leak their juices into the dressing which will dilute the flavour.
- Pour the dressing on just before serving to avoid wilting the salad too soon.
So, on any night where you feel like a bowl of warm rice and something healthy, give this dish a try. I promise that you will enjoy it as much as my family has over the years!
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Vietnamese Beef and Watercress Salad
- 400 gm beef steak (best you can afford) at room temperature and cubed (Note 1)
- 150 gm watercress / leafy salad mix / or both, washed and trimmed
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 – 8 cherry tomatoes or 2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
- 10 stalks of coriander, chopped
- 1/2 granny smith apple, cut into thin strips
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp corn flour
Nuoc Mam Salad Dressing
- 1 tbsp hot water
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp palm vinegar or white vinegar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 – 2 birds eye chilli, chopped (optional)
- Combine the marinade ingredients and the cubed beef in a large bowl. Then cover with cling wrap and allow to marinate for 20 mins.
- Make the salad dressing by combining the sugar and hot water in a bowl. With a spoon, dissolve as much of the sugar as possible.
- Add the remaining dressing ingredients and combine thoroughly. Cover with cling wrap and set aside.
- Prep all your vegetables. For best results, spin dry the watercress / salad mix after washing.
- Heat a pan on medium – high heat and add vegetable oil. Fry the beef cubes to desired state. I like mine medium, so roughly 5-6 mins. (Note 2)
- Place the watercress / salad mix, tomatoes, red onion and green apple in a large bowl.
- Just before serving, spoon half of the dressing into the salad and toss.
- Check the salad for seasoning. Add more dressing if needed and serve the remaining dressing in a bowl for anyone who wants additional sauce.
- Place the salad on a plate with the beef cubes on top and serve with rice.
- If you are short on time, skip marinating the beef and do not cube the steak. Cook it like you would a normal steak with a little salt and pepper on each side. Cut it into thin strips before tossing through the salad.
- Make sure the fry pan is hot and is large enough so that the beef cubes are not overcrowded. This will ensure you get a nice sear on the beef and do not steam it.