Warm beef and watercress salad

Posted on March 12, 2014


This is going to be like a merger of the two themes from my February posts – it’s a Vietnamese style salad :). Now I can’t really vouch for how authentic my recipe is going to be, I kinda made it up as I went along. All I had to go on was beef and watercress and everything else was just what I felt like at the time. There’s a little back story as to why I was inspired to make this salad actually…

So I must preface this by saying that I tend to use watercress in the only way I know how, I make it into soup. Nothing too fancy, just boiled with some pork bones and other accompanying veggies and it’s a simple Chinese style watercress soup (西洋菜湯). Anyhow I’ve never thought to eat the watercress I buy raw, because I find watercress to have quite a bitter taste. And certainly the Chinese watercress soup I make has a slightly bitter undertone, but most of the bitterness would have been neutralised through the cooking and from the other ingredients. Then one day a lady at the market spotted me buying really fresh watercress and asked if I was going to make a salad. Seeing my dumbfounded face, she then told me that beef and watercress salad is quite a common Vietnamese dish and that I should try it some day. Ha. You learn something new everyday. I mean I have seen watercress in salad before, but it always looks slightly different to the type of watercress I buy for soup making. So I’ve never really thought about using the watercress I buy in a salad, plus I love watercress soup, so usually when I buy it, it is explicitly for that purpose. But ever since that lady planted that seed in my head, I’ve been meaning to make that salad, so here it is. And that also explains why I don’t know how authentic this recipe is, because I didn’t search for a recipe online or anything. I just went with the key ingredients the lady mentioned and improvised from there.


I used some porterhouse steaks here as my beef component. No real reason behind that, just because they were on sale and they looked quite nice. You could use any cut of steak preferred. Or if you think it’s a bit blasphemous to crave up a perfectly good steak to serve in a salad, you could also just stir fry pieces of cut beef. It’s up to you. Obviously if you choose to stir fry beef instead of using steak, then adjust the below recipe accordingly.


RECIPE – Warm beef and watercress salad (serves 2 as a main)


  • ~500g beef (I used 3 steaks)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 bunches watercress, trimmed, washed and spun dry
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • ~125g (half punnet) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4-5 shallots, sliced
  • oil for cooking
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ~1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • ~1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • few drops sesame oil
  • sliced long red chilli and Thai basil leaves for garnish (optional)


  1. Mix minced garlic, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of oil together in a small bowl. Brush marinade onto steaks.
  2. Heat up grill on high. Cook steaks to preference (I cooked mine till about medium) then remove from heat and allow to rest. As a general rule, you should rest meat for about half the time it took to cook. For example if the steaks took 6 minutes, rest for 3 minutes.
  3. In a small pan, heat with a little oil and saute sliced shallots until they turn golden. Remove from heat and reserve.IMG_8369
  4. Arrange watercress, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes on a large plate. IMG_8370
  5. When steaks have rested, slice on an angle. Place beef slices on top of the veggies.
  6. Mix together lime juice, dark soy, sugar and sesame oil. Adjust seasoning to suit tastes. Drizzle over salad. (The dressing is why my beef looks less pink than it actually is in the photos!)
  7. Top salad with sauted shallots, sliced red chilli and basil leaves. Serve immediately.IMG_8382

The result…hmm…I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. Let’s talk about the things I like first. I like that it’s a nice ‘light’ way to enjoy steak. I like the tangy dressing and the general flavour of the salad. What I didn’t really like was the watercress. I still find the watercress quite a bitter/peppery green despite trimming off the thick stem bits. I don’t mind it, but can’t say this is my favourite way of having watercress. Old habits die hard and my first preference would still be to have watercress in soup form. Also I’m not 100% confident I’m using the right watercress for salad. Maybe the leaves I’m using are too old? I’ve only ever found this one variety. If someone can confirm if there is another variety of watercress that I should be using for salads that would be much appreciated. So basically I would like the salad better if the watercress was replaced with a milder or sweeter tasting green. Experiment with watercress, or substitute with spinach or mixed greens at your pleasing! And do let me know how you find it if you do recreate a version of this :).

Posted in: MissC cooks, Salads