There's something magical about a side dish. They come in various shapes, sizes and taste combinations encompassing starches to fruits and vegetables. Side dishes are a healthy replacement for a typical appetizer and sometimes even served as a dessert.

Restaurants offer an array of side plates, but for the discerning palate, they design unique methods of preparation.  For instance, “a la carte,” the French term meaning “according to the menu,” you order your own personal selections.

Sometimes a side dish can sound dull and boring compared to the entrees. However, there are side dishes that fly out of the park over a seemingly great main course. Around the world, many side dishes beckon a sampling.

Ensalada Rusa (Olivier Salad)

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Ensalada Rusa (literally “Russian salad”) is the Spanish name for a salad best known as Olivier Salad, or sometimes as Russian Potato Salad. Oliver Salad has its roots in Moscow, Russia, created by French-trained chef Lucien Olivier in the late 1800s.

Wait. Let’s back up – a Russian salad with a Spanish name made famous by a Frenchman? That isn’t all; this side dish has an incredible history.

The recipe was popular among Russian citizens and found its way into the hands of Monsieur Olivier, who changed the name of the dish to Salade Olivier. The salad’s next stop was Spain, where it was rechristened Ensalada Rusa. From there, following the path of all great explorers, this dish crossed the Atlantic Ocean to South America with the streams of Russian and European immigrants. They continued to spread the love of this cuisine to countries such as Colombia, Argentina, Dominican Republic, and Peru.

This international salad includes onions, peas, carrots, minced boiled potato, eggs, tuna, and a creamy base of mayonnaise dressing. Distinctive areas and locales create their unique blend by incorporating diced ham, corn, capers, green olives, and beans. This is a wonderful way to make a yummy salad out of easy food items or even leftovers.

Arroz Con Coco (Colombian Coconut Rice)

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Coconut rice and its varieties are found in tropical regions around the world. It is straightforward to make and has a distinctive, sweet flavor. Countries will use this side dish in combination with seafood or chicken. To spice things up, people will add ginger, salt, or onions. If you lean toward desserts, consider enhancing the treat with honey and sugar.

In Colombia, the coconut rice is not cooked in coconut milk. Instead, Colombians take only the coconut milk and boil it down into a solid base or oil. This generates a sweet, toasty, mass of coconut that is exceptionally savory. The resulting oil and solids are added to the dry rice. This rice and coconut infusion results in the coconut rice.

Barbunya Pilaki (Turkish Baked Beans)

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One of the most popular sides across the world is baked beans. In fact, in Turkey, they have their own called Barbunya Pilaki. Barbunya Pilaki (cranberry beans) are cooked with tangy vegetables, which give the beans a light and refreshing taste. This is a delightful alternative to the traditional dark, heavy, sugary-sauced beans many Americans are used to.

Barbunya Pilaki are cooked in olive oil that contains onion, garlic, carrots, tomato, and a sprinkle of sugar. You can use borlotti beans, which serve the same function as kidney or pinto beans since they come from the same family, and you can use them as a substitute for the borlotti. The Barbunya Pilaki can be served as a hot or cold dish depending on the time of year. The best part? Pilaki is traditionally served with drinks before the main course.

Pass the Sides, Please

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Side dishes are a practical way to eat something flavorful as an accompaniment to your main course. Feel free to experiment and enjoy the varieties of ways succulent side dishes are fashioned. Be on the lookout, for all around the world, wherever you may roam, great and exciting food is waiting for you.