Ginger + Soy seems like an unlikely place to get a salad.
WU already boasts an impressive salad roster. Krafthouse’s Caribbean fish salad features mahi-mahi sparkling with seasoning, golden plantains and a zingy citrus dressing. Sprout is literally constructed for salad; it serves sweet potato, orzo, kale and cauliflower salads from its side bar, as well as build-your-own salads from a dedicated salad bar.
But a Ginger + Soy poke bowl, with mixed greens instead of rice as my base, is a dark horse competitor in the WU salad Olympics.
At first, my decision to substitute mixed greens for rice was more reactive than proactive; in contrast to jaw-breaking kernels of undercooked brown rice, mixed greens were easier on my teeth. But more importantly, rice steals all potential flavor from a WU poke bowl. At home, I was used to eating rice as an accompaniment to rich-flavored and salty dishes. Plain white rice helped to counterbalance these intense flavors and keep me full. In any context, two generous helpings of rice is like a flavor vacuum. At Ginger + Soy, the rice base overwhelms the lightly pickled vegetables and dainty scoop of sesame-oil salmon.
But mixed greens transform a mediocre rice bowl into an exceptional vegetable medley. Stodgy, starchy, and occasionally crunchy rice fights (and beats) each poke ingredient for flavor dominance. But the mellow-mannered spinach and other young leafy vegetables provide the perfect blank canvas for the cabbage, carrots and kale to shine.
In contrast to WU’s hearty, creamy salads, Ginger + Soy’s poke bowl “salads” are light and refreshing. Most salads ask too much of their dressing. Somehow, a tablespoon of caesar or green goddess dressing must provide a satisfying mouthfeel, moisten dry chicken and create a coherent dish out of a mishmash of ingredients. But Ginger + Soy poke bowls stand out from this protein-lettuce-dressing norm. The genius of the poke bowl is that no one ingredient does all the heavy lifting — instead, each pulls its weight equally.
The mayo-based crab salad and seasoned salmon together add fat. Many salads lose points for their dry protein. Luckily, raw fish is the opposite of dry: wet. Pickled purple cabbage and carrots cut any excess richness with a delightful burst of tartness. Eel sauce — the lightest of “dressings” — sweetens the dish, while craisin-kale salad combines the sweet, bitter and tangy flavors of its teammates. If the craisin-kale salad were a Mario Kart character, he would be Mario — an all-around player.
Some dressings render salads unrecognizable, masking their rainbow colors and verdant greens in a demonic layer of off-white or balsamic brown. In contrast, each jewel-toned component in the poke bowl sparkles brightly against a clean backdrop. A MasterChef contestant might even describe the dish as a deconstructed something-or-other. Eating this dish feels like bathing in a health-and-wellness ocean of chlorophyll and vitamin C.
If a regular chicken salad were a Honda Civic, then the Ginger + Soy Poke salad is a Tesla Model S: sleek, shiny and an outsider seeking to prove that novel fuel sources (in this case, mixed greens instead of rice) can be cool too.
Unfortunately, like a Tesla, this spa day for the stomach does not come for cheap. The small scoop of salmon and handful of vegetable medley costs $14.61. Food point savers beware.
Thus, Ginger + Soy is not an everyday meal for me. But for students seeking something different from the romaine-chicken-dressing paradigm, a Ginger + Soy poke bowl on mixed greens may be worth a try.
Jessica Luan is a Trinity senior. Her column typically runs on alternate Fridays.
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