Home World Cuisine Watercress Stir Fry (炒西洋菜) – Omnivore’s Cookbook

Watercress Stir Fry (炒西洋菜) – Omnivore’s Cookbook

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Watercress stir fry is a quick and easy side dish that is rich in flavor and full of nutrients. Spend 10 minutes to make this dish and complete your dinner! {Vegetarian Adaptable, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Chinese watercress stir fry close up

Leafy greens are an important component of the Chinese dinner table due to their health benefits. In fact, many families try to have at least one leafy green dish for dinner every day. If you’re interested in this topic, check out my article on Chinese green vegetables.

Watercress stir fry is one of the most popular green vegetable stir fries and I enjoy it and cook it often. It takes no time to prepare, tastes delicious, and can accompany many different types of meals.



Watercress, or Xi Yang Cai (西洋菜), literally means “Western Vegetable” in Chinese. It is said that the vegetable was brought to China from Portugal, and then became quite popular in Cantonese cuisine. 

The vegetablee is low in calories, but packed with vitamins C, K, and A, and calcium and Manganese. It is antioxidant-rich, which helps improve heart health. 

You can easily find watercress sold in small batches at Chinese grocery stores, and often at grocery stores such as Whole Foods. 

Oyster sauce

Oyster sauce is an important ingredient to add umami to the watercress stir fry. A very small amount of it goes a long way. It’s very commonly used in Cantonese dishes such as this one. It is OK to replace it with soy sauce if you don’t have oyster sauce on hand, but I highly recommend oyster sauce. It is the ingredient that will make this dish taste like it came from a Chinese restaurant.

If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan dish, you can use vegetarian oyster sauce (also called mushroom sauce). For a gluten-free dish, use a gluten-free oyster sauce.

Mise en place

It only takes five ingredients to make a rich tasting watercress stir fry.

  • Watercress, soaked and drained
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce)
  • Garlic
  • Sugar
Watercress stir fry ingredients
Chinese watercress stir fry

How to make watercress stir fry

Making the watercress stir fry is super easy:

  1. Saute the garlic in oil to release fragrance
  2. Stir fry the watercress until al dente
  3. Add the sauce and sugar
  4. Mix everything together

The key to making the best watercress stir fry is to use a hot pan and high heat to sear the watercress quickly. It’s important to cook it until just tender without overcooking it.

How to make watercress stir fry step-by-step

Do I need a wok?

You don’t need a wok to cook this watercress stir fry.

I’ve explained my favorite stir fry setup in my Wok vs. Stir Fry Pan post. In short, I do prefer to use a wok for simpler dishes like this one, because the wok hei (hot air that makes the dish smoky) imparts a great taste to it that is quite prominent. 

On the other hand, it’s totally OK to use a frying pan, whether it’s nonstick or carbon steel. The key is to heat up the pan really hot but not overcook the vegetables. The seasonings in this recipe will help you make a delicious stir fry even without the smokiness. 

How to serve watercress stir fry

This watercress stir fry is from Cantonese cuisine. However, it can accompany a wide variety of dishes. No matter if you want to serve it with your favorite sweet and sour pork, use it to balance out the spiciness of mapo tofu, or you simply want to add a side to your roast chicken, this one will work perfectly.   

Watercress Stir Fry (炒西洋菜)

Other easy side dishes for dinner

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Watercress stir fry is a quick and easy side dish that is rich in flavor and full of nutrients. Take 10 minutes to make this dish and complete your dinner! {Vegetarian Adaptable, Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Watercress Stir Fry (炒西洋菜)

Watercress stir fry is a quick and easy side dish that is rich in flavor and full of nutrients. Spend 10 minutes to make this dish and complete your dinner! {Vegetarian Adaptable, Gluten-Free Adaptable}To make the dish gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce, and make sure to use a gluten-free vegetarian oyster sauce.

Author: Maggie Zhu

Course: Side

Cuisine: Chinese

Keyword: homestyle

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 bunch (1 lb / 450 g) watercress
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 3 cloves garlic , sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt to taste (Optional)


  • Soak the watercress in cold tap water for 2 to 3 minutes while preparing other ingredients. Then drain thoroughly and set aside.

  • Mix the oyster sauce and soy sauce together in a small bowl.

  • Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic. Stir a few times to release fragrance.

  • Add the watercress. Stir and cook a few times to mix well with the oil.

  • Pour in the oyster sauce and soy sauce mixture. Sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Continue to stir as you cook, to mix the seasoning evenly. When the watercress turns tender but is still crisp, transfer everything to a plate. Turn to low heat and taste the sauce. Sprinkle with a small pinch of salt if needed (*Footnote 1). Serve hot as a side dish.


  1. I usually do not add salt to my watercress stir fry. However, you might want to adjust the seasoning if you are using a bigger bunch of watercress.


Serving: 1serving, Calories: 79kcal, Carbohydrates: 2.2g, Protein: 1.9g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 1.2g, Sodium: 199mg, Potassium: 114mg, Fiber: 0.7g, Sugar: 0.5g, Calcium: 24mg, Iron: 1mg

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