Boise might be the most remote metropolitan area in the Lower 48, but that doesn't mean it's bereft of international fare. A kaleidoscope of ethnic markets dot the city, offering cuisine and goods drawn from almost every continent (if someone can point us to an Australian or Antarctic market, please do).
We selected six locations to highlight the diversity of Boise's retail culinary options and point people looking to expand their palates in the right direction.
9975 W. Fairview Ave., 208-321-4502
Unlike in our neighboring coastal states, it is difficult to find good Asian imports around here to snack on. With everything from rice crackers to small bento boxes, Asia Market stocks the essentials for people looking for authentic Asian goods.
Refrigerators lining the wall are stocked with a wide selection of mocha and, across the shop, fresh produce like Chinese broccoli is perfect for upgrading an Asian dish.For something different and delicious, try a Grass Jelly drink—a line of sodas filled with jelly chunks—or choose from the plethora of unfamiliar KitKat flavors (both strawberry and green tea are definitely worth trying).
413 N. Orchard St., 208-658-0644
The army of colorful, low hanging pinatas are the first thing to greet customers entering Campos Market. The Mexican shop gives visitors a tiny taste of the open air markets of Central America with a deli of assorted raw meats; a restaurant selling cheap, authentic Mexican dishes; and long aisles of differing trinkets and packaged foods covered in Spanish language writing. There is a sitting area in the center of the shop, so regardless of what eaters buy, they can enjoy it in house with traditional Mexican music playing from the store's speakers.
Customers who walk in hungry should try Campos' chorizo meat on either tacos or burritos. It's rich, authentic flavor won't leave anything to be desired. Campos Market also sells plantains, a type of bananas severed fried bringing out their strong sweet taste.
BoEx (Bosnia Express)
4846 Emerald St., 208-433-9955
Mostly hidden by its strip mall surroundings, BoEx captures European cleanliness and class. Its friendly, proud owner, Eki Dusahka, welcomes customers while they walk across shining hardwood floors and glance at the shelves glistening with European wines. BoEx's selection of paninis is unrivaled by any other restaurant in Boise—all of which are worth trying, especially the House Special and Nutella varieties. The cafe deli also serves gyros and baguettes.
The store's confectionery section has a wide selection of foreign sweets, including a wall of popular European chocolates like Milka, Ritter and (Dusahka's favorite) Mozart.
Readers who pop in for a drink at BoEx's bar should try Plantaze Vranac's Pro Corde, a smoky red wine or Karlovacko Pivo, a white lager beer.
East Africa Grocery and Coffee
5214 W. Fairview Ave., 208-322-6770
The smell of East Africa Grocery and Coffee is a combination of incense, coffee and cardamom. It's the first thing visitors experience when they step into the store, housed in a modest shopping center on Fairview Avenue, and it stays with them long after they leave.
The shop is a repository of all things rich, from delicately spiced, home-made cookies and shrink-wrapped dates—popular during Ramadan—to Hilal goat meat and unroasted Ethiopian coffee beans (both of which can be bought in ZipLock bags by the pound). Patrons can buy pre-paid phone cards to call family in far reaches of the world; huge bags of corn and wheat flour; and African-style clothing, foods and housewares.
East Africa Grocery and Coffee also a sports lounge where people gather to watch soccer matches while drinking black tea and coffee, sitting in white plastic lawn chairs and cheering on favorite players when they appear onscreen. More than a grocery, for its patrons, East Africa Grocery and Coffee is a hangout, an outlet and a reminder of home.
6020 W. Fairview Ave., 208-387-0000
Hindustani music is the soundtrack for a trip down the colorful aisles at India Foods. Pastries and traditional dishes line the insides of large refrigerators, and nearby are small piles of produce from India: drumstick leaves, Indian cucumber and fresh jackfruit. In the back of the shop, long strings of fake flowers, statues and piles of incense—the lily and moon scents are both lovely—share space with ghee, mustard oil and sweets. We recommend trying Mithai—small, colorful Indian sweets usually made with nuts, sugar and milk, and often eaten during holidays and times of celebration.Ishtar Market
4516 W. Overland Road, 208-275-8437
When looking to satisfy a craving for hummus and naan, Ishtar Market is the place to go. The kosher deli has a wide selection of Middle Eastern dishes including kebabs, rice soup, chicken and fish.
The market also carries a large selection of packaged imports and, for the chef in your family, Ishtar Market makes its own blend of seven different spices, perfect for perking up a rice-based recipe.Thana's Little World Market
4101 W. Overland Road, 208-331-3033
Thana's Little World Market exudes an authentic, rural Southeast Asia vibe. The wide aisles are flanked with floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with beverages and snacks, like the basil seed drink with honey, which is subtle, sweet and as delicious as it is strange.
The quintessence of the shop is in its fresh produce. Jack Fruit, a large tropical berry similar in texture and taste to pineapple, is sold next to fresh kaffir lime leaves, which are sour and a good ingredient to give tang to any noodle dishes. The market even occasionally receives a shipment of lychee seeds or rambutans.
Although the shelves of packaged snacks may seems daunting, a quick dessert can be made by boiling coconut milk, brown sugar and tapioca pearls—all sold at the store—and served over ice. We recommend it.
6555 W. Overland Road, 208-658-1364
The only thing more heartwarming than the homemade soups of Tres Bonne is its ambiance. On each sky blue tablecloth of this European cafe is a small bowl of gummy bears and a small vase of flowers. The wide variety of sandwiches are served on homemade bread and their European real hot chocolate lives up to its name with a thick, creamy taste.
On the other side of the cafe is a wine shop and bar with a large selection of European wines and beers. Because their selection is all imported, their chardonnays haven't been soaked in wood chips and have a less oaky, softer taste. It is worth noting Tres Bonne's Fuggin Awesome and Effin Awesome imperial lagers also live up to their names.