Sensational Salads of the World
When you travel the world looking for new and exciting
cuisine, a salad doesn’t usually top your list of must haves. But the humble
salad can transcend its traditional lettuce base and reach new heights if only
given half a chance. If you’ve ever been
on a diet, you have every right to be skeptical, but reserve judgment until you
read about these amazing (and delicious) salads from around the world.
The French are so good at food, they even do salad better than everyone else! The Nicoise salad is originally from the stunning city of Nice, but is now known the world over as a seriously delicious salad. And there isn’t an iceberg lettuce leaf to be found in it. Although it can be served as a composed salad, that is all of the ingredients arranged separately on a plate to be joined together only in the eating, it’s much more fun to serve the Nicoise already tossed and dressed. It’s a colorful salad, with green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, tuna, eggs, and anchovies tossed with olive oil. It can also have some wild greens like chervil (parsley) and tarragon added to it. There is some disagreement amongst chefs regarding the ingredients, but most agree that the key ingredients are tomatoes, potatoes, tuna, and anchovies. Everything else is added at the whim of the chef. The end result is fresh, lively, healthy, and most of all, yummy.
One of Russia’s most beloved salads has an interesting name when translated into English. In Russian it is known as Selyodka Pod Shuboy, which translates as “Herring Under a Fur Coat.” This most certainly doesn’t sound appetizing to the English-speaking diner. The good news is there is herring in the salad, but no fur. What is covering the fresh salty fish is a thick layer of vegetables that serve as a type of “fur” coat one could argue. It seems easier just to call it a layered Herring salad. It is served on almost every Russian table at New Year’s Eve and along with its heartiness, it is also an extremely colorful salad. The layers consist of fresh herring (of course), potatoes, onions, apples, carrots, mayonnaise, and as the final layer, pickled beets to give it a bright purple hue. It can be garnished with hardboiled eggs, and after enjoying a plate of this immensely popular dish you’ll hardly have room for the main course. Again, not a leaf of romaine or iceberg to be found. I think the rest of the world is on to something in the salad department!
The traditional Guatemalan Fiambre salad is a Day of the
Dead or All Saints Day traditional dish eaten only on November 1. It is served cold and has up to fifty
ingredients! These ingredients can
include, cold cuts, corn, beets, olives, chicken, beets, onions, sausages, a
variety of cheeses, Brussels sprouts, shrimp, eggs, sardines, and more. Every family has their own spin on it and
adds or subtracts ingredients based on their traditions. The custom of so many ingredients tossed
together in a cold salad dish originated with the Day of the Dead celebration
itself. On this special day in Latin
America, families visit the graves of departed loved ones to celebrate their
lives and share a meal together. They
may even eat at the graveyard near their loved ones' final resting place. As an additional honor, they will bring
dishes that were a favorite food of the departed ancestor, and leave a portion
by the grave in remembrance. All of
these dishes were eventually mixed together to make this large salad that
holds everything but the kitchen sink.
While there are similar ingredients in the dish, it’s easy to see why
there are so many family variations.
Your loved ones may have hated sardines, so that ingredient would never
appear in your generational recipe.
Since sharing a meal is such an important part of life, the Fiambre
salad tradition is a wonderful way to celebrate breaking bread with loved ones,
even after they have left this earth.
The Gado-Gado salad of Indonesia is also a traditional dish
whose name translated means
“mix-mix.” The beauty of any good
salad is the ability to enjoy several wonderful ingredients tossed together in
some sort of tasty dressing, offering a taste explosion with every bite. In the gado-gado salad, fresh vegetables such
as bean sprouts, spinach, potatoes (a recurring theme in our salad survey!),
string beans, bitter melon, corn, and chayote squash as well as eggs, tofu, and
tempeh for protein, are all tossed together in a peanut dressing. The key to a good gado-gado salad is indeed
the dressing. It has to have the perfect
blend of peanuts, chilis, garlic, lime, sugar, and tamarind. It’s not a satay sauce, although the
confusion is understandable. And in
Indonesia, the ingredients of the gado-gado are tossed generously with this tangy
peanut concoction. Despite its many
healthy ingredients, if we want our gado-gado to remain healthy, we may have to
ease up on the peanut dressing. But
where’s the fun in that?
As you can see from our small tour, salads don’t have to be boring, bland, or completely without personality. They can include healthy ingredients but they can also be hearty, complex, and tasty. If you want to spruce up your American salad, follow the lead of other countries that have taken the salad and made it a culinary delight. With salads like these, who needs entrees?