Vietnamese Beef and Watercress Salad (Bo Xao Sa Lach Son)

The funny thing about having a mom who is an awesome cook, is that you don't even realize how good you had it until someone else points it out to you.  This happened recently on a visit home to my parent's house in Houston.  We had a casual lunch at home and my mom made bo xao sa lat song, a watercress salad with marinated beef, to accompany our meal of rice and various vegetarian dishes.   Growing up, I'd probably eaten watercress salad once a week and not thought much about it.  But then my husband kept on talking about how good it was.  And I came to my senses and realized, yes, it is delicious! 

It's a shame not more people eat watercress.  It's crunchy and refreshing, with a hint of bitterness and sweetness.  I wouldn't be surprised if it became the next kale.   I like to make green smoothies with any leftover watercress I might have.  I used to have to go to the Asian grocery stores to find watercress, but now it's pretty easy to find at any local grocery stores.

Bo xao sa lat song is very quick and easy to assemble.  Traditionally, it is topped with sauteed thin slices of garlicky, marinated beef, but another vegetarian riff on this salad is to replace the beef with hard-boiled eggs and avocado. A quick vinaigrette finishes off the salad.

  • 2 bunches watercress, washed with thick stems removed
  • 1 lb. thin sliced lean beef (examples: bo tai or filet)
  • Marinade: adjust to taste
    • 1 tbs. oyster sauce
    • 2 tbs. soy sauce
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 2 tbs. canola oil
    • 1 tbs. sugar
    • fresh pepper
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced and rinsed under cold water or quick-soaked in white vinegar and water to remove raw taste
  • vinaigrette: adjust to taste
    • about 1/3 c. white vinegar
    • 2 tbs. canola oil
    • 1 tbs. sugar
    • 1 clove minced garlic 
  • nuoc cham* see previous bun thit nuong post for recipe
  1. Stir together oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic, canola oil, sugar, and pepper until sugar is dissolved.  Adjust marinade to taste.  Marinate beef at least 1 hour, overnight is even better.
  2. In a large shallow bowl or plate, add watercress, tomato, avocado, and red onion.  
  3. In another small bowl, combine vinaigrette ingredients
  4. Quickly sear beef over a very hot grilling pan.  Do not move beef around, allowing each side to sear and slightly caramelize for about 20-30 seconds per side.
  5. Top salad with beef and dress with nuoc cham and vinaigrette.  Mix well and serve.


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