Vietnamese Beef and Watercress Salad

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4

To keep your salad greens crisp, rinse the leaves in cold water, dry them in a salad spinner, wrap them in a kitchen towel and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving. This time in the refrigerator yields greens that are crisper than if spun dry just before serving.


  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 1/4 lb. sirloin steak, trimmed of excess fat and cut into cubes
  • 1 small red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 6 oz. watercress, tender leaves and stems only
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves


Marinate the beef
In a sealable plastic bag, combine the garlic, fish sauce, sugar, salt, a pinch of pepper and 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the beef, seal the bag and squeeze to distribute the ingredients. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 1 1/2 hours; if refrigerated, return to room temperature before cooking.

Marinate the onion
In a bowl, toss the onion with the vinegar and season generously with pepper. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil and toss to combine.

Assemble the salad and stir-fry the beef
In a wok or deep, heavy fry pan over high heat, warm the canola oil. Meanwhile, arrange the watercress and cilantro on individual plates and top with the onion. When the oil is very hot, add the beef and the marinade and stir-fry until the beef is browned on all sides, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes; do not overcook. Scatter the beef over the salads and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Salad, by Brigit L. Binns (Oxmoor House, 2007).

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