watercress salad with oyster sauce

watercress salad with oyster sauce

Although I was born in Texas, I don’t remember anything about it.  My home has always and will always be our house in Villa Park.  It was a small suburban town in Southern California and it was even better because my cousin that was closest to my age was also our next door neighbor.  We went to the same school, walked home all the time, and had sordid and crazy adventures in our back yard.  Picture her as Jasmine and me as Aladdin singing “A Whole New World” while on a magic carpet ride.  [I still remember the words to that song; my roommate can vouch for me.]

My cousin and I did a lot of things together and since I always cooked when I got home from school, we naturally experimented with cooking.  Most of the time it was a tragedy that brought us closer together.  This one time of tragedy happened during our kitchen remodel.  Instead of planning a trip, going out to eat to places like The Sizzler or Hometown Buffet, or going to a relative/friend’s house for dinner, my parents decided to be very Chinese and set up our kitchen in our backyard for use.  and when I say our kitchen, I mean everything.  We had the refrigerator, microwave, fancy dining room table, and folding tables placed in the yard to mimic a kitchen.  Since my parents couldn’t legally and safely hook our electric stove outside, my dad set up two butanee camping stoves for my mom to cook over.  It was an outdoor stove and at the time I thought it was normal.

Anyways, because the kitchen was outside and since Susan, my cousin, and I would always play outside, it only made sense that we would try to cook something.  Somehow in our mind we decided to make pancakes from scratch.  We, wanted to make them special, so we wanted to embellish and add our own things.  Problem is we had no idea in hell how to make pancakes so we just started mixing things.  Anything you can find in a Chinese outdoor kitchen we put it in.  I remember there was flour, egg, milk, and salt (we where on the right track with the pancakes).  But then we started to roam.  We weren’t allowed to use the knife yet, and I didn’t want my cousin to tell my parents that I had already started to hone my knife skills, so we stayed with stuff that didn’t need prep.  I put in a few tablespoons of this white crystal like substance because my mom said it made things taste good.  It was MSG.  I put a good ¼ cup of it in.  Then we added sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and more stuff.  I distinctly remember an image of rainbow colors in it, so there were probably some cupcake sprinkles in it too.  Finally, because there was no syrup, I grabbed the Chinese Oyster Sauce and poured it all over the pancake.  We where done.  As you would imagine, it tasted like crap.  It actually turned me off from oyster sauce for a good couple of years.  I just recently began to rekindle my love for the sauce.  It seems to taste better when not mixed with funfetti topping.

In case you’re not familiar with it, the sauce is dark in color and thick in consistency.  It is made from Oysters to give it brine like flavor.  There is also a vegetarian version that is made from mushrooms.  Neither of the sauces actually taste like oyster, brine, sea, or fish to me.  It has a subtle sweetness with a rich savory flavor.  I like it, but in moderations.  The sauce can over power things easily.  It’s really good in stir fries and with chicken. You can use either sauce for this dish as well as any other dish that calls for Oyster Sauce.  It’s interchangeable based on your diet, allergy, and preference.  This dish is simple and easy to make.  I created it out of laziness, frugality, and a challenge from a certain Korean friend of mine.  I think it turned out pretty well.  You can make this ahead of time and serve it chilled for the summer, room temperature for the spring, and hot for the fall and winter.  It’s a light boil so not all the nutrients should escape the watercress.  You can stir fry the ingredients if you like, but I was purposely trying to not use oil in the recipe.  My cousin had to move to Australia with the family a couple of years later.  I missed her.  I don’t miss the MSG though.


2 tbs. Chinese rice wine

3 cups water

1/2 small onion, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 bunch of cleaned watercress

1 tbs oyster/mushroom sauce

sesame seed for garnish (optional)


boil water with wine, onion, and garlic in pot

turn off heat and submerge watercress in water until lightly cooked, 5 minutes

strain contents of pot out and transfer to bowl

mix oyster/mushroom sauce with watercress

season to taste with salt and top with toasted sesame seeds

-serves 4 –


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i hunger...i cook...i eat...i come back...i reminisce...i blog...enjoy.


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