Foodfort/Storyfort 2018: International Chefs Share Tastes and Tales 

click to enlarge Left to right: Edible Idaho writer Scott Ki introduced Chefs E, Ratna Subba and Kibrom Milash.

Lex Nelson

Left to right: Edible Idaho writer Scott Ki introduced Chefs E, Ratna Subba and Kibrom Milash.

International cuisine is booming in Boise, helped along by a growing population of immigrants and refugees from around the world who've brought their local cuisines along with them. On March 24, Storyfort and Foodfort, two branches of Treefort Music Fest, spotlighted three Boise chefs who've been expanding Idaho palates, giving them a chance to share their stories and samples of their food with an eager crowd. Edible Idaho writer Scott Ki introduced the trio one by one.

click to enlarge Foodfort assistants portion out samples of Chef E's Thai salad. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Foodfort assistants portion out samples of Chef E's Thai salad.
First to step up to the counter in the former Kindness restaurant space in The Owyhee was Sararak Sapiro, better known as Chef E. She immigrated to the U.S. from Thailand and opened the Thai pop-up restaurant Lime and a Coconut in Boise, which can be found at the Capital City Public Market in season and will host a pop-up at Guru Donuts on Thursday, April 5. Chef E told stories about her upbringing in Thailand, where she was born and raised on an organic farm that grew jasmine rice. The family lived without running water or electricity, and had to gather all of their ingredients by hand from the surrounding land.

"I learned to be very patient," said Chef E. "Before we could eat anything, we had to go get everything from scratch. [For] example, my dad would be like, 'Okay, this weekend we're going to make some fish curry,' and I'd be like 'Oh no, not again!' because we had to plan ... We had to get the bamboo [trap] to catch the fish and put that in the pond in the backyard, and we had to get the coconut from the tree to make coconut milk from scratch, and go pick some flowers from the tree to make soup."

click to enlarge Chef E served samples of her Thai salad made with shrimp and ground chicken. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Chef E served samples of her Thai salad made with shrimp and ground chicken.
Assistants handed out samples of Chef E's food to the crowd. First came a Thai salad made from beans, herbs, roasted peanuts, shrimp, ground chicken and toasted coconut that she shaved herself, all tossed in a coconut chili lime dressing. Next came tiny cups of a sticky rice and Thai banana dessert. Chef E explained that she'd made the sweet, chewy morsels by wrapping sticky rice and bananas in banana leaves, them steaming them and topping them with coconut meat and raw sugar.

After Chef E came Chef Ratna Subba, who moved to Boise from Nepal in 2012 after living what he described as "a homeless life, a prisoner life" for more than 20 years. He spent five years learning to make momos, or dumplings, and then started the food truck Darjeeling Momo. He now spends his days cooking and will teach momo-making classes at JUMP on Wednesday, April 11.

"I have magic in my hands," he said, describing the chicken and beef dumplings the crowd sampled, which were topped with a bright orange "signature sauce" made from ginger, garlic, oil, turmeric, and cumin ground with sesame seeds. The dumplings were rich in flavor, packed with meat and flecks of cilantro.

click to enlarge Chef Kibrom Milash, owner of Kibrom's Ethiopian & Eritrean Restaurant. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Chef Kibrom Milash, owner of Kibrom's Ethiopian & Eritrean Restaurant.
Last, Chef Kibrom Milash stepped up to the counter and spoke about moving to Boise from Ethiopia in 2013 as a refugee and opening Kibrom's Ethiopian & Eritrean Restaurant. Though its original location in the Boise International Market burned down, it has since reopened on State Street, where Kibrom serves up a variety of dishes from Africa, many vegetarian.

During his talk, Milash described berbere, a signature African spice blend, and the process of making injera, a sourdough flatbread made from teff that's used as both a side dish and a utensil.

"We don't use a fork and spoon, we only use our five fingers," he said with a grin. "This,"—he pointed to his hand—"is your fork, injera is your spoon."

As Milash finished speaking, the crowd chowed down on the final round of samples: spicy black lentils with berbere and yellow split peas with tumeric, topped with a roll of injera for scooping.

"I'm so lucky to come to Boise, because I like potatoes," Milash joked. "I really like potatoes."
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