Expanding Palates 

Boise's array of ethnic markets offers culinary options

Let's say you're ready to whip up a pot of tom kha gai soup, when the recipe throws you a curve ball. Where in Boise do you find fresh galangal? These days, there are an assortment of authentic ethnic food markets sprinkled throughout Boise where you can pick up all the random sundries you need for your culinary forays. Here's a guide to some of BW's favorite markets, with a list of not-to-be-passed-up steals.

African Market

561 N. Orchard St., Boise, 208-322-0210

Though the African Market may be small, the hidden spot off Orchard has a some interesting finds. You can snag everything from plantain flour to pounded yam flour to locally made teff flour. Other neat items include Ketepa Kenyan tea, cassava leaves, goat meat and frozen mature hens. Don't miss the ginger-, cardamom- and cinnamon-flavored coffee.

Asia Market

9975 W. Fairview Ave., Boise, 208-321-4502

Located on Fairview near Five Mile, Asia Market is a good option if you've got a hankering for gyoza or spring rolls. In fact, Asia Market has one of the more notable spring roll wrapper selections in town. Other items of interest include 98-ounce cans of coconut milk, shark fin soup, shrimp chips and sweet basil seeds.

The Basque Market

608 W. Grove St., Boise, 208-433-1208, thebasquemarket.com

Not only does this Basque Block gem offer some of the best sandwiches and soups in town, it also carries a healthy selection of Basque pantry necessities. The shelves are lined with smoked paprika, salmon-stuffed olives and plenty of wine, while the deli case is filled with Basque cheeses and cured meats. Don't leave without a frozen batch of homemade vegetarian croquettas. A little known secret: If you call ahead of time, they'll throw those puppies in the deep fryer for you.

Bosnia Express (BoEx) Market

4846 Emerald St., Boise, 208-433-9955

While the selection might be similar to Little Russia--lots of Eastern European candy, chocolate and cookies--BoEx sets itself apart in a number of ways. Not only does it serve hot gyros, the joint also has an accompanying bar and nightclub. And if you're in the mood for pate, BoEx has everything from pork to chicken to vegetarian. Be sure to pick up a loaf of pillowy house-baked bread to go with it.

Campos Market

413 W. Orchard St., Boise, 208-650-0665

If you want Mexican meats, Campos is your carniceria. The meat counter in the back of the store glistens with various shades of red: adobada de Puerco, thinly sliced bistec, carne asada, pigs feet and tons of chorizo. The cerveza selection ain't half bad either: Sol, Bohemia, Pacifico, Carta Blanca. If you're grabbing meat for a barbecue, don't forget the pinata.

China Market

3919 W. Overland Road, Boise, 208-377-0292

China Market's see-your-reflection-clean floors, flooding natural light and softly humming music all make for a pleasant shopping experience. While the store has a less impressive produce selection than Orient Market, it does win on the sauce front. Shelves are stocked with bottles of tamari, shoyu, fish sauce, tom yum paste, Sriracha and peanut sauce. Also, check out the tea selection.

India Food

602 N. Orchard St., Boise, 208-387-0000

With its humming refrigerated coolers, crowded aisles and wafting tufts of pungent spices, India Food can seem intimidating at first blush. The shelves are crammed with an assortment of dried goods--apricots, white mulberries, whole chickpeas, lentils--while the coolers are stocked with items like frozen samosas, pakoras and ice cream. The real draw, though, is the array of spices, like ground cardamom, cloves, turmeric, white pepper and white chili powder. Don't miss the best curry powder blend we've found anywhere in town. Seriously, this stuff will make you a curry God.

Kabul Market

5751 W. Overland Road, Boise, 208-322-6660

Don't let the name fool you, the Kabul Market stocks a wide array of both Indian and Middle Eastern foodstuffs. The small refrigerated case contains sheep's milk cheeses, cheese spreads and pre-made baklava, while the aisles are lined with bulgur wheat, basmati rice and packaged spices like tandoori seasoning or the intriguing mountain ash tree fruit. If you want to make some killer summer cocktails, pick up a bottle of orange blossom water or quince lemon syrup.

LaCantina Sociale

707 W. Bannock St., Boise, 208-377-0224, lacantinasociale.com

This addition to Boise's downtown market scene specializes, above all, in Italian wine. The shop's Sicilian owner Giuseppe Veneziano carries an array of southern and northern Italian wines and offers weekly tastings. After you've picked out the perfect barbara d'alba, stock up on unique Italian cheeses, gnocchi, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, fine olive oils and lady-fingers.

Little Russia International Foods

10390 Fairview Ave., Boise, 208-375-1046

For those with a soft spot for imported sweets, Little Russia is your motherland. The small store has an array of candies and chocolates, all labeled in Russian. The selection meanders to jarred veggie spreads, pickled veggies, mushrooms and an entire aisle of cookies and wafers. The cooler offers a limited quantity of frozen pierogies and kefir, while the deli counter boasts salami and cured meats.

Middle East Market

5811 W. Franklin St., Boise, 208-890-2183

Every time we've swung into the Middle East Market for some inexpensive tahini, there's a cluster of jovial dudes yacking it up at the cash register. Whether you're looking for baking dates, grape leaves, packaged bulgur wheat, pistachios, green olives or canned fava beans, the staff at Middle East Market is more than willing to help you find what you need.

Orient Market

4806 Emerald St., Boise, 208-342-5507

One of the largest Asian markets in town, Orient Market is the best spot to snag hard-to-find Asian produce. Whether you're looking for yucca, enoki mushrooms, bok choy, lotus root, daikon or bitter melon, Orient Market is the go-to place. And in addition to baking flaky bread, Orient Market also boasts a seafood department with heads-on whole fish, quail eggs and even vegetarian kidney.

Thana's Little World Market

4109 W. Overland Road, Boise, 208-331-3033, thanasworldmarket.com

Thana's offers a sizable collection of dried, frozen and fresh goods for every kind of Asian and South Asian cuisine you could attempt. Thana's is a one-stop ethnic foods destination. Whether you want frozen duck feet, onion paratha, halal breakfast beef, date syrup or Egyptian watermelon seeds, you're covered.

Tres Bonne Cuisine

6555 Overland Road, Boise, 208-658-1364, tresbonnecuisine.com

Barbara and Tom Haines, former owners of Tres Bonne Cuisine, serve up strong brews and meaty Eastern European fare with a delightful dash of sass. In addition to an assortment of Polish, Czech, Croatian, Lithuanian, Austrian, Russian, Estonian, Ukrainian, Belgian and German beers, the market and restaurant also boasts an array of deli meats and packaged miscellany--cookies, candies, crackers, canned goods. Stop by for country-themed dinners on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

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