Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese Beef & Watercress Salad (Bò Xào Xà Lách Xoong)

Growing up, I loved hanging out at the nearby creek. I spent most of my days fishing for crawfish with a homemade fishing pole and a piece of bacon, while Mom collected watercress that grew abundantly along the muddy banks. Mom was very reluctant to cook up my catch of crawfish due to the questionable water, but she always took home the watercress where we had it in several dishes. 

The most traditional and popular way to use watercress is in a salad with stir-fried beef and a tangy vinegar fish sauce dressing (Bo Xao Xa Lach Xoong). This can be served as a simple appetizer or one of the many sides dishes in a traditional home cooked Vietnamese meal. 

To make the salad, slice beef sirloin thinly then season with salt and pepper. Quickly pan-fry with a little vegetable oil and lots of garlic. Mix the stir-fried beef and all its juices with the watercress. The heat from the beef will wilt down the watercress and meld the flavors together. Lightly dress the salad with the fish sauce and vinegar dressing and top it with coarsely chopped roasted peanuts for a nice crunch.

warm beef wilted watercress salad vietnamese bo xao xa lach xoong

Vietnamese Beef & Watercress Salad Recipe (Bo Xao Xa Lach Xoong)

Adapted from Luke Nguyen

Serves 4


  • 1/2 lb sliced beef sirloin 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion (slice thin)
  • 4 cloves garlic (mince)
  • 1 bunch watercress (cut into 1 inch segments)
  • 1 tomato (optional; slice thin)
  • 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce dipping sauce
  • 2 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts (optional)


  •  1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar


  1. Combine tomatoes and watercress in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together vinegar and sugar. Add to tomatoes and watercress salad and lightly tossed.
  3. Season beef with pepper and salt.
  4. In a frying pan, heat up vegetable oil on medium-high. Add onion and saute for 30 seconds. Add garlic and beef. Stir-fry for 1 minute until browned.
  5. Add beef and all its juices to the watercress and tomato salad.
  6. Add fish sauce dipping sauce. Lightly toss. Top with crushed peanuts.

Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce (Cá Chiên Sốt Cà Chua)

When I was little, I used to love eating canned sardines in tomato sauce. Dad did most of the cooking and he was never a good cook. This meant canned sardines were on frequent rotations. We simply reheat it in the microwave and have it with steamed white rice. On fancy days, we would reheat it on the stove-top with a sprinkle of green onions.

Fortunately, my palette has gotten more sophisticated. Now if I want fish with tomato sauce, I opt for fried fish with a sauce made from fresh tomatoes (Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua). I love the combination of crispy savory fish and sweet-yet-slightly-tart tomato sauce. However, sometimes I still find myself reaching for those canned sardines in tomato sauce at the supermarket. Somethings are just hard to change =)

Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce Recipe (Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua)

Serves 2-3


  • 2 large fillets of preferred fish (here I used salmon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large shallot (slice thinly)
  • 2 large garlic cloves (mince)
  • 1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes 
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 cup fresh tomatoes (whole cherry or chopped tomatoes)
  • Sliced green onions (optional)


  • Season the fish liberally with salt and pepper. Then coat the fish with corn starch. Dust off excess.
  • In a large frying pan, heat up vegetable oil. Pan-fry both sides of fish until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with table towels to absorb excess oil. Remove excess oil from pan, leaving a thin layer.
  • Add garlic and shallots to pan and saute until fragrant.
  • Add canned crushed tomatoes and water. Simmer on low for 2-3 minutes for all the flavors to come together.
  • Season with sugar and fish sauce.
  • Add chopped or whole cherry tomatoes. Continue to cook until slightly wilted.
  • Ladle tomato sauce onto fried fish and garnish with green onions.
Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua