Celebrate May by turning over a new leaf and incorporating a variety of salads into your diet.

Planning for the summer months ahead? While you’re working on that summer bod and getting ready for some fun at the beach – don’t forget to add some refreshing salads to your meals to stay healthy!

Salads are a nutrition powerhouse and can be a good way to get your important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Salad greens contain vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and phytonutrients. Leafy vegetables are a good choice for a healthful diet because they do not contain cholesterol and are naturally low in calories and sodium.

Give yourself a healthy, post-workout nutrition boost with a variety of salads.

Adding color and texture such as dark green spinach or kale, and crunchy cucumbers can help to increase the vitamin content of your salad. But don’t forget to add protein for more flavor and taste in a wholesome, nutritious meal.

Salads can be cold or hot, layered or chopped, delicate or robust. But one thing for sure is that salads should never be boring. And that’s why we’re here to help you transform your salads with some Asian inspirations, and a few simple tips – from making your dressings with flavored vinegars to quick pickling your vegetable toppings. Check them out:

  1. Papaya Salad (Thailand): Papaya salad, also known as Som Tam Khai Khem, is a classic Thai dish. Common ingredients include green papaya, bird’s eye chili, garlic, green beans, tomatoes, crushed peanuts, carrots, dried shrimp, and salted hard-boiled eggs. For variation, cut salted eggs into quarters and add them as a topping for your salad. Or toss the egg and salad for a good mix. For that classic Thai flavor, combine fish sauce, palm sugar, lime or tamarind juice, and chicken stock to make the dressing. You will appreciate the sweet, spicy, tangy, and savory taste of this wonderful offering.

    Som Tam Khai Khem is a classic salad loved by Thais.

  2. Shredded Chicken Salad (Vietnam): Gỏi Gà is a traditional Vietnamese salad. To make this crunchy flavorful salad, add shredded pieces of cooked chicken to a mix of carrots, onions, cilantro, mint, and cabbage. All you need is a dressing made with lime juice, fish sauce, chili peppers, garlic, and sugar, and just drizzle over the salad. Garnish with roasted peanuts and crispy fried shallots before serving.

    Gỏi Gà is a traditional Vietnamese salad made of shredded chicken, carrots, onions, cilantro, mint, and cabbage. (Photo: The Kitchn)

  3. Lalap (Indonesia): A typical Indonesian salad, Lalap, does not have a defined recipe but it is usually prepared with raw vegetables such as tomatoes, lemon basil, green eggplant, cucumber, cabbage, and long beans, as well as blanched or boiled chayote, spinach, papaya leaves, water spinach, and cassava leaves. The sambal terasi (fermented shrimp paste) dipping sauce is served on the side with the salad, cold or at room temperature. Lalap goes well with pepes (dishes served/wrapped in banana leaves), fried fish, and fried chicken.

    A typical Indonesian salad, Lalap, is served with a shrimp-based dipping sauce. (Photo: TasteAtlas)

  4. Kerabu (Malaysia): Kerabu dishes refer to diverse combinations of fresh vegetables and zingy sauces that are commonly eaten with rice in Malaysia. Aside from shrimp, fish flakes, pork skin, and chicken feet, other typical ingredients include cucumber, bean sprouts, mango, shallots, winged beans (also known as four-angled beans), coconut, bamboo shoots, and pepper. Typically, lime juice, sugar, chili pepper, and shrimp paste (belacan) make up the dressing. In several other regions of Southeast Asia, salads like kerabu are occasionally referred to by that name.

    Combinations of fresh vegetables and sauces commonly eaten with rice makes this salad a Malaysian fave! (Photo: MalaysiaChineseCuisine.com)

  5. Ensaladang Pinoy – Green Salad (Philippines): A Filipino side dish salad known as “ensaladang pinoy” or “ensaladang talong“, this is typically served with grilled meats, fish, and rice at family get-togethers and picnics. Onions, tomatoes, and eggplant make up the ingredients which are occasionally served with bagoong (fermented fish or shrimp paste) plus a classic vinaigrette dressing. To give the dish a spectrum of flavors, salted duck eggs and tart green mangoes will do the trick!

    “Ensaladang Pinoy” or “Ensaladang Talong” comprises onions, tomatoes, and eggplant, and is occasionally served with bagoong (fermented fish or shrimp paste).

Keeping calories in check

Asian salads are generally considered healthy and low in calories compared to those creamy salad dressings. The many exotic ingredients found in Asian salads are enough to give your entire meal a rich, enjoyable taste. However, if you still crave creamy dressings, opt for low-fat mayo, sour cream, Greek yogurt, hummus, or olive oil – your waistline will thank you this summer!

Olive oil, low-fat mayo or sour cream salad dressings are healthy choices. (Photo: Tranmautritam)