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Around the World in 10 Dishes: Salad Edition

Exploring the global food scene on the Front Range, dish by dish.

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The Latin root of "salad" is sal, or "salt." That’s a clue to just how nebulous the definiton of the word, seemingly so straightforward, really is—after all, what food isn’t "something seasoned"? Salads can be cold or warm, tossed or composed, vegetarian or not, served as starters, sides or entrées; in short, the category is so broad as to be almost meaningless.

But there are a few criteria by which to narrow it down somewhat. For instance, you could say a salad has to have at least one plant-based ingredient; that it has to be dressed; and that it can’t be eaten with your hands. By that logic, you’d exclude, say, pasta in marinara sauce but accept pasta in a vinaigrette; you’d discount tacos but count all the same ingredients served in a bowl with a fork. Admittedly, it still leaves plenty of room for debate—but debate is par for the culinary course (see also: flatbreadsdumplings).

On that note, here are 10 specialties from around the globe that fit the general description and, more important, do it deliciously right here in Denver. (As for Mediterranean masterpieces like salade Niçoise and panzanella, hold tight until summer!)

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Poke
Splitting the difference between sashimi and ceviche, poke serves as Hawaii’s sparkling contribution to the worldwide canon of raw-fish dishes. Other than the requisite tuna, ingredients can vary widely, but this Uptown hub of ping-pong and pan-Asian plates keeps it elegantly simple with Aloha State albacore, diced cucumber and a dash of soy atop hijiki (black seaweed) laced with bits of lotus and burdock root as well as sesame seeds.

Chili Verde

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Salpicón
In Mexico, salpicón refers to a mélange of shredded beef and veggies often used as taco filling or tostada topping. Sprinkled with a bit of vinegar, the mixture can also stand alone as an ensalada—which is how this Jefferson Park favorite serves it, alongside a basket of corn tortillas. Onions, jalapeños and cilantro give it its invigorating kick, softened by the fruitiness of tomatoes, green olives and avocado; queso fresco enhances the light saltiness of the meat.

Continental Deli

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Fleischsalat
If you’re A-OK with tuna, chicken and egg salad, you can’t arbitrarily deny pork its due. The Germans don’t, which is why Continental Deli offers its awesome “meat salad” solo or as a sandwich filling. Made with sliced fleischkäse as well as bologna-esque mortadella and bierschincken in a gherkin-studded mayo dressing, it’s like having your cake and eating it too—or rather having your cold cuts while swearing you ate a salad for lunch too.

Cracovia Restaurant and Bar

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Sałatka śledziowa
By the same token, pickled herring in sour cream with a touch of onion and herbs may not much resemble your idea of a salad. But in historically fresh-produce-poor Poland, its cooling, strangely soothing combination of sweetness, tang and funk makes total sense.

Jaya Asian Grill

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Gado gado
Compared to some versions we’ve had, boasting an elaborate assortment of cooked vegetables, Jaya’s take on this Indonesian staple is fairly simple. But the fundamentals are all in place and the results as comfortingly hearty as could be, with cabbage, green beans and mung sprouts lightening the load of fried tofu and hard-boiled egg doused in peanut sauce.

Phoenician Kabob

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Fattoush
This Park Hill longtimer makes just about the lightest variation on a Middle Eastern mainstay imaginable: at first blush, the blend of romaine, tomatoes, green peppers, tomatoes and onions appears to be your garden-variety green salad. But dig in, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of the toasty pita “croutons” that define fattoush, along with a dusting of tart sumac. (Besides, if you’re smart and order world’s best garlic dip with fresh-baked flatbread as well, you won’t have room for anything much more substantial.)

Saigon Bowl

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Goi
The nuts and bolts of a Vietnamese salad: raw cabbage, carrots, basil, mint and peanuts, dressed in the distinctive mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chiles that’s so vital to and ubiquitous in Southeast Asian cuisine. That’s what you’ll get when you order goi at this Federal fixture, which then presents your choice of various proteins on top—from duck (goi vit) to beef (goi bo) to our pick, goi sua tom thit with plump shrimp and glistening strands of jellyfish.

Shish Kabob Grill

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Tabbouleh
In the Middle East, parsley isn’t just a garnish—it’s a salad green in and of itself, minced and tossed in this classic dish with nutty bulgur, tomatoes and onions in a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Diverging from tradition just a touch, Shish Kabob Grill adds black olives for extra oomph.

Suvipa Thai

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Yom Woon Sen
The Thai penchant for melding sour, spicy, sweet and salty flavors extends to its salads, of which som tam, starring green papaya, is best known. But this Federal newcomer also makes a mean glass-noodle salad, stir-fried with shrimp, ground pork, red and green onion, and all the vibrant herbs and spices—basil, mint, cilantro, chile—you’d expect, spritzed with fish sauce-and-lime juice dressing.
Tsukemono
From sauerkraut and kimchi to giardiniera and Indian achar, pickled vegetables play myriad supporting roles on the global table, above all providing sharp sour-and-salty accents to any given meal. So it is with tsukemono—which also possesses a hint of sweetness, in typically balanced Japanese fashion. This Prospect spot does a lovely job of its assortment, combining juicy chunks of Japanese cucumber with delicate daikon-and-carrot maki.

Ace

Poke
Splitting the difference between sashimi and ceviche, poke serves as Hawaii’s sparkling contribution to the worldwide canon of raw-fish dishes. Other than the requisite tuna, ingredients can vary widely, but this Uptown hub of ping-pong and pan-Asian plates keeps it elegantly simple with Aloha State albacore, diced cucumber and a dash of soy atop hijiki (black seaweed) laced with bits of lotus and burdock root as well as sesame seeds.

Chili Verde

Salpicón
In Mexico, salpicón refers to a mélange of shredded beef and veggies often used as taco filling or tostada topping. Sprinkled with a bit of vinegar, the mixture can also stand alone as an ensalada—which is how this Jefferson Park favorite serves it, alongside a basket of corn tortillas. Onions, jalapeños and cilantro give it its invigorating kick, softened by the fruitiness of tomatoes, green olives and avocado; queso fresco enhances the light saltiness of the meat.

Continental Deli

Fleischsalat
If you’re A-OK with tuna, chicken and egg salad, you can’t arbitrarily deny pork its due. The Germans don’t, which is why Continental Deli offers its awesome “meat salad” solo or as a sandwich filling. Made with sliced fleischkäse as well as bologna-esque mortadella and bierschincken in a gherkin-studded mayo dressing, it’s like having your cake and eating it too—or rather having your cold cuts while swearing you ate a salad for lunch too.

Cracovia Restaurant and Bar

Sałatka śledziowa
By the same token, pickled herring in sour cream with a touch of onion and herbs may not much resemble your idea of a salad. But in historically fresh-produce-poor Poland, its cooling, strangely soothing combination of sweetness, tang and funk makes total sense.

Jaya Asian Grill

Gado gado
Compared to some versions we’ve had, boasting an elaborate assortment of cooked vegetables, Jaya’s take on this Indonesian staple is fairly simple. But the fundamentals are all in place and the results as comfortingly hearty as could be, with cabbage, green beans and mung sprouts lightening the load of fried tofu and hard-boiled egg doused in peanut sauce.

Phoenician Kabob

Fattoush
This Park Hill longtimer makes just about the lightest variation on a Middle Eastern mainstay imaginable: at first blush, the blend of romaine, tomatoes, green peppers, tomatoes and onions appears to be your garden-variety green salad. But dig in, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of the toasty pita “croutons” that define fattoush, along with a dusting of tart sumac. (Besides, if you’re smart and order world’s best garlic dip with fresh-baked flatbread as well, you won’t have room for anything much more substantial.)

Saigon Bowl

Goi
The nuts and bolts of a Vietnamese salad: raw cabbage, carrots, basil, mint and peanuts, dressed in the distinctive mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chiles that’s so vital to and ubiquitous in Southeast Asian cuisine. That’s what you’ll get when you order goi at this Federal fixture, which then presents your choice of various proteins on top—from duck (goi vit) to beef (goi bo) to our pick, goi sua tom thit with plump shrimp and glistening strands of jellyfish.

Shish Kabob Grill

Tabbouleh
In the Middle East, parsley isn’t just a garnish—it’s a salad green in and of itself, minced and tossed in this classic dish with nutty bulgur, tomatoes and onions in a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Diverging from tradition just a touch, Shish Kabob Grill adds black olives for extra oomph.

Suvipa Thai

Yom Woon Sen
The Thai penchant for melding sour, spicy, sweet and salty flavors extends to its salads, of which som tam, starring green papaya, is best known. But this Federal newcomer also makes a mean glass-noodle salad, stir-fried with shrimp, ground pork, red and green onion, and all the vibrant herbs and spices—basil, mint, cilantro, chile—you’d expect, spritzed with fish sauce-and-lime juice dressing.

Tokio

Tsukemono
From sauerkraut and kimchi to giardiniera and Indian achar, pickled vegetables play myriad supporting roles on the global table, above all providing sharp sour-and-salty accents to any given meal. So it is with tsukemono—which also possesses a hint of sweetness, in typically balanced Japanese fashion. This Prospect spot does a lovely job of its assortment, combining juicy chunks of Japanese cucumber with delicate daikon-and-carrot maki.

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