The recipe below comes from Vietnam. Contrast and balance are important elements in most Asian cooking, and salads similar to this, which combine warm and cool elements in one dish, are common throughout Southeast Asia. Enjoy.
Warm Beef and Watercress Salad
3/4 lb. beef tenderloin, sirloin steak, or filet mignon
1 Tbs. green peppercorns, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 stems lemon grass (white part only), very thinly sliced,
or 1 slightly rounded tsp. finely grated lemon rind
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. ground black pepper
8 oz. watercress (about 1-1/2 average bunches)
4 oz. cherry tomatoes
4 scallions, sliced
2 Tbs. lime juice
Cut the steak into thin slices. Combine the green peppercorns, garlic, lemon grass (or rind), 2 tablespoons oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add the beef and mix well. Cover and allow to marinate, refrigerated, for 30 minutes.
Wash and drain the watercress. Remove sprigs from the tough stems, breaking up any sprigs that are large. Arrange the watercress on a serving platter. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place the halves around the edge of the watercress.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or frying pan until very hot. Add the beef and marinade mixture, and stir-fry quickly, until beef is just cooked. Add the scallions to the pan, mixing them in with the beef. Pile the cooked beef in the center of the watercress and sprinkle the lime juice over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 2–3.
Note: Green peppercorns, which are simply unripe peppercorns, come one of two ways: in brine or freeze dried. Either is acceptable for this recipe. In brine may be slightly cheaper, while the freeze dried ones last longer, if you don’t use them all at once. If you use freeze dried green peppercorns, simply add 1 tablespoon of dried peppercorns to a couple tablespoons of hot water, and let them sit for 5–10 minutes. Then drain, chop, and add to recipe as needed. The ones in brine need no preparation—but don’t add the brine to the recipe.
Regarding lemon grass: While it is certainly more authentic, and is subtly different from grated lemon rind, it is not enough different to keep you from making this if you can’t find it. Besides, the other flavors are strong enough to make it hard to tell which you’ve used.