comscore Time is main ingredient in tasty salted beef dish | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Every act of aloha counts. Click here to DONATE to the MAUI RELIEF Fund.
By Request

Time is main ingredient in tasty salted beef dish

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now

It can take time to reach the proper degree of yum. In this case, at least a week.

"Salt Beef with Watercress sounds simple but no website or anybody I have asked knows for sure what else if anything besides the salt, the beef, watercress and water are used, or in what proportion they are measured," wrote George Kitashiro.

"Can you suggest something?"

This Hawaiian dish is about time more than technique. Kitashiro has all the ingredients right — beyond that all you need is a glass or ceramic container and a refrigerator. It’s not an instant-gratification dish, though. It’ll take at least a week to get your beef to the state where you can start cooking.

Beyond that, it’s not brain surgery. You simply submerge a large hunk of beef brisket in salted water for seven to 10 days, perhaps stirring or turning it a few times as the salt does all the work. After that, if you can boil water, you can complete the recipe.

Salt curing is an ancient technique for preserving meats, common in many culinary cultures. It inhibits bacterial growth and breaks down proteins to tenderize.

Corned beef, that St. Patrick’s Day staple, is a prime example — cured with spices as well as salt (the "corned" in the name refers to the large particles of salt, not actual corn).

Brining a turkey at Thanksgiving would be another example, although it only takes a few hours, not days.

Random fact: Pastrami is corned beef that’s been smoked, which I mention just to show how common salt-curing is all around us.

All that said, I’ve never done this myself, so I called chef Sam Choy, who has. He waxed delicious about the deep, earthy flavors you get in this dish, not just from the curing but from the watercress. "That’s a real traditional dish, a real old dish."

Choy outlined the recipe that follows, noting that the fat in the beef could turn yellow in the curing process. And he offered this tip, for any soupy dish that uses watercress: Add the stems to the broth first. They add lots of flavor as they soften.


3 to 4 pounds beef brisket
2 quarts water
1 to 1-1/2 cups sea salt
2 bunches watercress, cut in 3-inch lengths

Rinse brisket and place in large glass or ceramic bowl or crock (the inner "crock" part of a Crock Pot would work).

Heat water and add salt; stir to dissolve. Cool.

Pour brine over brisket, adding more water to cover if needed. Cover and refrigerate 7 to 10 days.

Rinse beef well. Place in pot and add water to cover. Bring to boil, then simmer 30 minutes. Discard water. If meat is too salty, repeat the simmering process once or even twice, discarding water each time.

Place meat in fresh pot of water and simmer 2 hours. Add watercress stems. Simmer 1 hour more or until meat is very tender, then add leaves. Simmer until wilted. Slice or shred meat; serve with broth and watercress. Serves 8.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Write "By Request," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. Send e-mail to:


Comments have been disabled for this story...

Click here to view ongoing news coverage of the Maui wildfires. Sign up for our free e-newsletter to get the latest news delivered to your inbox. Download the Honolulu Star-Advertiser mobile app to stay on top of breaking news coverage.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up