Karen Martini's Vietnamese beef stir-fry with spring onion, green chilli and toasted rice

This stir-fry makes a regular appearance on Karen Martini's family dinner table.
This stir-fry makes a regular appearance on Karen Martini's family dinner table. Photo: William Meppem

This is on high rotation in my house: I cook it almost weekly. The sticky soy and garlic on the beef is addictive, while the green chillies, with their gentle heat, bring a real brightness to the dish. Don't skip the toasted rice, either: the nutty flavour and crunch add so much.


1 bunch watercress

2 tbsp jasmine rice

900g beef (scotch, rump cap, hanger steak or eye fillet)

8 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsp roughly ground black pepper

1 tbsp fish sauce

60ml grapeseed oil or other neutral oil

2 white onions, diced

1 green capsicum, cut into 3cm pieces

2 long green chillies, sliced

6 spring onions, white and most of the green, cut into 3cm batons

1 lime, to serve

steamed jasmine rice, to serve

For the cooking sauce

3 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp caster sugar


1. Trim and discard any woody parts of the watercress. Chop the remaining leaves and stems at about 4cm intervals and set aside.

2. Add the 2 tablespoons of rice to a dry frying pan over medium–high heat. Toast the rice, shaking the pan constantly to colour evenly, until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Tip into a mortar and grind to a rough powder. Set aside.

3. Cut the beef into 1cm slices, then add to a large bowl with the garlic, pepper and fish sauce. Toss to combine, then set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes. If marinating for longer – and overnight is ideal – refrigerate.

4. Combine the cooking sauce ingredients in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, arrange the watercress on a serving platter.

5. Preheat the oil in a wok for 4 minutes over a high heat. Add the beef, spreading it out to make contact with the wok. Leave undisturbed for 2 minutes before stirring through. Add the white onion, capsicum and chilli and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the spring onion and sauce. Stir through for 1 minute, then tip onto the watercress.

6. Sprinkle the rice powder over the top and squeeze over the lime. Serve with steamed rice.