Vietnamese Bò Trộn Cải Xoong – Pan-Seared Beef & Watercress Salad, with Fish Dressing Sauce

Contains: Seafood in the dressing, with option to opt out.  Soy, with option to opt out.  Is:  gluten-free with the proper soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos.  

The recipe I’d originally planned to make for the Asian New Year (of which celebration starts this year on February 5th, my late Dad’s birthday), was an epic fail.  Oh, it tasted fine, and I’d copied the critical part (the dumpling skin part) exactly, but it didn’t hold together.   At All.  Slimy mush.

So, back to the drawing board for another time.  But… as I love cuisine hailing from that vast continent, I wanted to have a post up in time for this festive Chinese and east Asian/southeast Asian holiday.

Bò Trộn Cải Xoong, Vietnamese, recipe, beef and watercress salad, beef, watercress

I figured I’d stick with something Vietnamese (the failed recipe was Vietnamese), but time to go simpler.  And there was already watercress in the fridge.

This one comes from my cookbook, Lemongrass, Ginger and Mint:  Vietnamese Cookbook, by Linh Nguyen.  The book aims to provide “classic Vietnamese restaurant favorites at home”.  I’ve only been to three Vietnamese restaurants in my life, so I can’t really answer that.  The watercress ended up in the Vietnamese diet during the years of French colonization.

Changes I made:  Sirloin tip steak instead of ribeye.  The former was already thawed, and needed to be eaten.  Sure, I could also thaw out the ribeye, too, but that would mean too much beef to eat in under a week’s time.  Beef should be parsed out slowly in the diet for a variety of reasons.

Bò Trộn Cải Xoong,recipe, Vietnamese, salad, beef, watercress

Here, we just need the dressing (and, to toss the greens and meat).

And, they call for “one bunch watercress” – I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to see a standard measurement for a unit of weight called a “bunch”.  I do know it means be flexible, and my recipe below reflects on that, but… I do provide an approximate weight here.

Bò Trộn Cải Xoong, Vietnamese, recipe, watercress

Watercress adds a nice peppery crispness to this dish.  To let this last longer in the fridge, place any rooted watercress you may have, into a shallow bowl of water.

Finally, I cut the recipe in half, to serve just me.

VIetnamese, recipe, Nước Mắm Trộn Gỏi/Nộm, fish sauce, dressing

The salad dressing, a serving. Add when done.

Prep Time:  10 minutes (dressing) + 25 minutes (salad)
Cook Time:  3 minutes
Rest Time:  No.
Serves: 1
Cuisine:  Vietnamese with French Influences
Leftovers:  Sure, but to keep the greens from wilting, I wouldn’t re-heat, or add the final salad dressing until needed.
Serve with: rice, white or brown.

Bò Trộn Cải Xoong – Pan-Seared Beef & Watercress Salad

Part I:  The Fish Sauce Dressing (Nước Mắm Trộn Gỏi/Nộm):  (which you can use on anything you like…)

  • 1.25 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1.25 tablespoons sugar
  • 0.5 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoons minced hot chile (red or green, de-seeded or not, to preference)

Combine lime juice, fish sauce and sugar, until sugar dissolves.  Add the garlic and hot chili.

Use, or store.  (Up the concentrations of these if you want to reserve some for future recipes, not just to make a one-shot of the salad below).

For those who cannot eat fish, use a quality tamari or use coconut aminos instead.  Coconut aminos are sweet, so cut down on the sugar in the recipe, perhaps by half (taste).

The author of the recipe recommends that for saving the dressing for a lengthy period (which can be up to a month), simply to make a batch of the first three ingredients, adding in the garlic and hot chile when about to use, in appropriate concentrations, as the garlic and chili may lose flavor over time.  

Part II:  The Salad Itself:

  • Four ounces / 115 grams cleaned up sirloin tip steak (or boneless ribeye steak), thin-sliced against the grain.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced.
  • 1 1-inch / 2.54 cm piece of ginger, minced.
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemongrass stalk, finely minced (or, 2 teaspoons ground lemongrass) 
  • 1.5 tablespoons of sesame oil, divided  (0.5 + 1)
  • 0.5 tablespoon gluten free tamari (or coconut aminos for soy-free)
  • 0.5 teaspoon sugar
  • 0.5 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Roots trimmed, 1/2 bunch of fresh rinsed watercress, about 1 or so ounces / 30 grams
  • The above fish sauce salad dressing.

Combine all the above except one tablespoon of the sesame oil, the watercress, bok choy and fish sauce dressing in a bowl.  I let this marinate for 20 minutes, although the recipe did not discuss marinating.

On a platter or in a bowl, cut the watercress into 3-4 inch / 7-10 cm segments, and chop up the optional bok choy.  Add about half of the fish sauce dressing, and toss.

Heat up a small skillet on medium high.  Add that last tablespoon of sesame oil, spread it, and immediately drop in the contents of the beef bowl.  Stir, browning the meat, for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the contents of this skillet and place atop the greens, add the rest of the dressing, toss and serve!

I served with rice, waiting until my rice cooker rice was nearly ready before searing the steak.

Vietnamese, recipe, beef and watercress salad, Bò Trộn Cải Xoong, beef, watercress

Ready to eat, except this still needs the beef to be tossed with the underlying watercress, and the overlaying dressing.

Thoughts about this cookbook:  Lemongrass, Ginger and Mint, by Linh Nguyen:

Vietnamese, cookbook, Linh Nguyen

For a cookbook published in 2017, there are startlingly few photos of the meals.  However, there are a lot of intriguing meals to be had here, including the signature pho dishes.  If ingredients are hard to find, Nguyen makes these with those ingredients, but lists substitutes and how to use, if and as needed.  Many of the recipes are simple (as is the one I’m posting today), others are much more complex and nuanced.  But there are plenty of simple recipes, and a variety of tingling taste sensations to be had here.  The book totals 75 recipes, but the variety makes it seems like there are more.  Instructions are clear.  Unfortunately, Nguyen does not provide a recipe for the one I failed at and am not yet including on my blog…

There’s a good section on ingredients to stock in your pantry, cooking equipment, and also a short discussion on the differences between north, central and south Vietnamese cuisine.

I am looking forward to trying several of the rice vermicelli recipes, as well as the Vietnamese crepes.  Also, char siu pork.  I have another Vietnamese cookbook dedicated mostly to pho, and will sample one of those pho recipes first.  There are several bánh mì recipes in this book, but I’ll admit, bready baguettes are just simply not my thing.

For those who celebrate:  Happy New Year!

This recipe has made its way to Fiesta Friday, where it is happy to join in the Fiesta.  Co-hosting this round are Antonia @ and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.

And, yes, let’s provide some good eats over at the Homestead Blog Hop, too.

AND more… let’s go hang with Full Plate Thursday, and yes, my plate’s full.










About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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11 Responses to Vietnamese Bò Trộn Cải Xoong – Pan-Seared Beef & Watercress Salad, with Fish Dressing Sauce

  1. Antonia says:

    This looks really delicious and full of flavor! The fish sauce dressing sounds really tasty. Thank you for sharing with us over at Fiesta Friday! 😀

  2. You have made an incredible dish with all those intense flavors I love. I use coconut aminos in most of my Asian cooking and love it.

  3. I think this is similar to beef luc lac (shaking beef) which my family loves. Looks so, so delicious!

  4. helenfern says:

    Oh wow – this sounds so flavorful!! Pinning to try – Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party. Have a great week.

  5. Miz Helen says:

    I can’t wait to give this a try, it looks delicious! Hope you are having a good week and staying warm. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday!
    Miz Helen

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