This Vietnamese beef and Watercress is a quick, easy and delicious stir fry, served with fresh watercress and lime wedges. Try the optional seasoned lime juice dipping sauce, too!.

beef and watercress stir fry on platter with rice and dipping sauce

Why you’ll love this Beef and Watercress

This beef stir fry is one of my favourites. The beef itself cooks up really quickly and is a wonderful combination of flavours. The hot beef is served on top of peppery fresh watercress, that wilts a bit from the hot meat. Together with the sauce, it’s a lovely combination. To top it off, a drizzle of fresh lime juice really makes the flavours pop.

Ingredients and Substiutions

Beef – I usually just pick up the beef stir fry strips, but any beef steak or small roast will work just fine. Simply cut into strips at home. The beef does need a 2 hour marinating time, so be sure to plan ahead for that.

Watercress – watercress is one of my favourite greens. Not only is it delicious, it is a nutritional powerhouse of a green. I highly recommend seeking it out. In place of watercress, baby spinach would work here.

Cook’s Notes

This dish is sometimes called “Shaking Beef”, which refers to the shaking motion in the pan.

This dish tends to the salty side, with both salty soy sauce and added salt. If you have low-sodium soy sauce, I would recommend it. You can also adjust the amount of added salt to taste.

Don’t skip the lime! Either serve with lime wedges or the lime dipping sauce, but definitely use limes. It really elevates this dish.

Vietnamese Shaking Beef with Watercress

How to Serve this Vietnamese Beef with Watercress

I love to serve this dish with rice. Alongside, serve either lime wedges, that you would drizzle over the beef, or serve with the optional lime dipping sauce, which is fresh lime juice mixed with a little salt and pepper.

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beef and watercress stir fry on platter with rice and dipping sauce

Get the Recipe: Beef with Watercress

Fast, easy and delicious beef stir fry, served with fresh watercress, lime wedges and rice. Optional lime and salt dipping sauce, as well!
5 stars from 2 ratings
Prep Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 lb beef strips


  • 2 Tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable, canola or other neutral cooking oil


  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 Tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium highly recommended
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce

Stir Fry:

  • 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 stalks green onion, cut into 1-inch pieces (green part only)
  • 1/2 small small onion, thinly sliced (red or yellow onion)
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon cold water

For Serving:

  • Lime wedges
  • 1 bunch fresh watercress, roughly chopped

Optional Dipping Sauce:

  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp. fine salt)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • Combine beef with marinade ingredients and stir to coat well. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours.
  • Make sauce by stirring together all the sauce ingredients. Set aside. If serving with rice, start the rice cooking about 15 minutes before you start cooking the beef. Cut green onion and onion and set aside.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a wok over medium-high heat until very hot. Add 1/2 of the beef, 1/2 of the green onion and 1/2 of the red onion to the pan in one layer and allow to cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes. Flip over and cook the other side of the meat for 1 minute. Remove to a plate and repeat process with other half of the beef, green onion and red onion.
  • Add sauce to pan, shaking to loosen the meat. Add beef from plate back in to the pan. Cook, until sauce simmers, then add cornstarch mixture. Cook until sauce is hot and thickened.
  • To serve, place some fresh watercress on a plate. Top with hot beef. Serve with some rice and additional lime wedges and/or lime dipping sauce.
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Course: Main Course
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 337kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 1578mg, Potassium: 521mg, Fiber: 0.5g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 260IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 45mg, Iron: 3mg
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