Vietnamese Beef and Watercress Salad – Bo Xao Sa Lat Soong

A few weeks ago, I noticed that the large grocery store near my home began stocking watercress in its fresh food section. It had been quite some time since I had eaten the vegetable which prompted me to buy it. I personally love watercress. It has so much more attitude in terms of flavour and texture when compared to other popular salad greens such as spinach. Which makes me wonder… why you don’t see watercress on the dinner table too often or at all?

To me it is a shame that this is the case, because not only does watercress taste good it is unbelievably good for you.  The nutritional value is off the charts when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Get this, it contains more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than spinach and more calcium than milk! It also contains glucosinolate compounds which have been suggested by studies to help prevent cancers such as lung, colon and breast. You now have to ask yourself, what more could you possibly want from a vegetable?


So, today I have decided to make watercress the star of this post by sharing with you my mum’s beef and watercress salad recipe. This dish has many variations between Vietnamese cooks but generally they can all agree on three essential ingredients of beef, watercress and nuoc mam (fish sauce).

In the past I have made this dish with slices of medium rare beef steak, much like a Thai beef salad.  The taste is great and it is less prep work but it is not as good as my mum’s original recipe. Soaking the meat in an oyster sauce based marinade just adds that little bit of kick and complexity that takes this dish to another level. However, I am aware that not everyone has time for this. Skipping the marinade and cooking the beef as you would a steak will still yield great results.

watercress-and-beef-salad 5

So, on any night where you feel like a bowl of warm rice and something healthy, give this dish a try. You won’t regret it!

– Scruff


Vietnamese Beef and Watercress Salad - Bo Xao Sa Lat Soong

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Type: Rice dish / Shared plate

Author: Scruff & Mum


  • 400 gm of flank or sirloin steak, at room temperature and cubed
  • 100 gm of watercress, cleaned, dried and chopped into 5 cm pieces
  • 1 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced thinly or 10 – 12 cherry tomatoes chopped in half length ways
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 a medium Granny Smith apple, cut into thin strips


  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml of oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of tapioca starch

Nuoc Mam Salad Dressing

  • 1 tbsp / 15 ml of boiling water
  • 3 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp / 30 ml of lime juice
  • 1 tbsp / 15ml of palm vinegar
  • 3 tbsp / 45 ml of fish sauce
  • 1 – 2 birds eye chilli, chopped (optional)


  1. Combine the marinade ingredients and the beef. Allow to marinate for at least 30 mins.
  2. Start on the dressing by adding the sugar to the boiling water. Dissolve as much of the sugar as possible.
  3. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and combine thoroughly. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the plate by laying a bed of watercress, tomatoes, red onion and apple.
  5. 10 mins before serving, heat a pan on medium – high heat and add the vegetable oil.
  6. Fry the beef cubes to desired state (I like mine medium, so roughly 5-6 mins)
  7. Plate the beef on top of the vegetables.
  8. Add the nuoc mam salad dressing to the hot pan to warm and deglaze.
  9. Just before serving, spoon half of the dressing onto the salad and toss.
  10. Taste check the salad and add more dressing if it needs more kick.
  11. Serve with rice.

Cooking Notes

  1. Make sure the pan is hot and that it is large enough so that the beef is not overcrowded. This will ensure you do not steam the beef.
  2. If the stems of the watercress are too thick, then trim them off.
  3. Watercress does not keep well. Buy the freshest you can find, and use it as soon as possible. It will last longer if you put it in a plastic bag with the stems wrapped in a damp paper towel, stored in the vegetable compartment of your fridge.
  4. Use a salad spinner to remove excess moisture from the watercress. This will ensure the sauce will not be diluted.
  5. If you have accidentally steamed the beef, then do not deglaze the pan as there will be too much moisture. Just add the dressing straight into the salad.
  6. If you prefer not to marinate the beef, then do not cube the beef and cook it like you would a steak. Cut it into thin strips before tossing through the salad.

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