New flavors for an old summer dish
Asian salads may dethrone Caesar
By Susan Reilly email@example.com
Had it with the trio of lettuce, tomato and cucumber?
Tired of some restaurant salads masquerading as healthy when in actuality, their fat and calorie content can rival a BigMac?
Look no further than your local Thai or Vietnamese restaurant.
“I think that for many people, salad is really misunderstood. The way we prepare salad is very different than what you would expect,” said Samantha Diep, owner of Pho Golden Bowl in Manchester.
Pho Golden Bowl is an authentic Vietnamese restaurant, and while dishes like summer rolls, rice vermicelli and noodle soups are well known, the real undiscovered gem on the menu is the salad.
The combination salad ($6.50) is a heaping platter of steamed shrimp, pulled chicken and seared tofu over a bed of grated cabbage and carrots. The salad is topped with crushed peanuts and crispy fried onions and mint leaves.
The flavor combination of sweet, spicy, salty and sour explodes on your tongue. It is interesting, but not so spicy that it leaves you reaching for the tumbler of water.
Put aside the interesting flavors (reason enough to try them); these salads are low in fat. To start with, the protein used for these salads — often shrimp, lean beef or duck — is steamed or grilled, not sautéed in oil or deep-fried. The dressing is typically simple: made with lime juice, fish sauce, chilies and a variety of herbs — no oil or fats whatsoever.
In Thailand, salads are referred to as “yum,” meaning tossed, or mixed together. Like Vietnamese salads, Thai salads offer layers of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors
Vegetables can be simple or exotic, depending what is at the market, but always very fresh. And, traditionally, these salads are prepared to order — never will you see a cooler full of take-out salads ready to go in an Asian restaurant.
Thai and Vietnamese salads are not boring, and in fact, the dressings can often pack quite a punch, a nice contrast to simpler vegetables.
“I have found that once people try the salad, they always finish it, and always come back for more,” Diep said.
Salads to buy
Here is a sample from area menus:
• Chaing Mai, 63 Route 101A, Amherst, 672-2929. Lab Gai — ($9.50) ground chicken mixed with red onion, mint, lime juice and scallions on lettuce. Plar Nua — ($9.50) char grilled beef mixed in chili paste with onion, tomatoes, mushrooms and scallions. Plar Goong — ($10.95) grilled shrimp in chili paste with lemon grass, mushrooms, onions, chili paste and lime.
• Dynamite Sushi, 30 Lowell Road, Hudson, 889-0055.Green salad — ($3.99) with asparagus tempura and a homemade orange dressing. Tuna salad — ($4.99) raw tuna served with as spicy sauce and mixed greens
• Pho Golden Bowl, 124 Queen City Ave., Manchester, 622-2000. Combination salad — ($6.50) shrimp and chicken tossed with mint, carrots, shredded cabbage and a homemade dressing then topped with crushed, roasted peanuts and crispy, dried onions.
• San Francisco Kitchen, 133 Main St., Nashua, 886-8833. Chicken and string bean salad ($5.25) with a soy dressing
• Siam Orchid, 158 North Main St., Concord, 228-1529 or 581 Second St., Manchester, 647-5547. Yum Neau — ($9.95) a warm salad of grilled, sliced sirloin with a spicy lime dressing. Papaya salad — ($7.95) shrimp tossed with papaya in a sweet and sour sauce with cashews, string beans and carrots. Seafood yum yum — ($11.95) steamed shrimp, squid and scallops tossed with mushrooms, onions and tomatoes in a sweet and sour sauce.
• Tiya’s Restaurant, 8 Hanover St., Manchester, 669-4365. Yum seafood — ($13.95) lobster, shrimp and mussels mixed with mint, onions, parsley and cucumber in a spicy lime dressing. Yum neur — ($8.95) charcoal grilled beef on a bed of lettuce with mint, parsley and onion in a spicy lime dressing. Plar goong — ($8.95) shrimp tossed with mint, onion, parsley and cucumber in a spicy lime dressing.
• Vietnam Noodle House, 138 Main St., Nashua, 886-4566. Goi, a traditional Vietnamese salad made from shrimp ($6.50), chicken ($6.25) or shrimp and chicken ($6.75). Tofu salad ($6.50).
• YouYou, 150 Broad St., Nashua, 882-8337. Chicken cold noodle salad ($7.95). Spicy beef salad ($7.50). Yum goong ($14.50) a shrimp salad.
Salad to make
Thai Beef Salad
1 lb sirloin steak, broiled medium-rare.
one head of lettuce, chopped
1 cucumber, sliced thin
3 tomatoes, cut into small wedges
1/4 of an onion sliced thin
1 small chili pepper, minced
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. fish sauce (can substitute with soy sauce) readily available at Asian markets or in ethnic aisle at supermarket
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
Optional: garnish with 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
Slice steak into thin strips, add chilies and garlic, then lemon juice, sugar, and fish sauce and mix together in medium-sized bowl. Remove steak and set aside.
Toss lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in the sauce the steak was in. Arrange salad on a platter and place steak evenly on top of bed of salad. Optional garnish: chopped peanuts. Serves 4.