Here’s the deal: I’m not explaining the Boise Urban Market again. If you’re interested in details, check out their website, Facebook page, or my previous write-ups. This time around, for me at least, was about revisiting favorite vendors more than it was about trying new things. So without further ado, let’s cover a few highlights.
This month’s Market was held at Payette Brewing, and of the three Markets I’ve now attended, this was by far the best location. There was plenty of room for all of the vendors, and even a sectioned-off area for the musicians. Once inside, we more or less made a beeline straight for Nor-mai‘s table. Nor-mai does homestyle Thai (and other Asian) food, and this time they had three items on offer for the low price of three dollars each.
|Yum Woon Sen|
My roommate and constant dining companion decided to try the Yum Woon Sen, a kind of light but moderately spicy Asian pasta salad comprised of glass noodles, tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro, peanuts and ground chicken (the recipe linked above uses shrimp). Both of us really dug this dish, and it ended up being one of the ones we discussed fondly later in the evening on our way home. If you haven’t tried Gina’s food yet, try to make it out to the next BUM function or any of the city markets where she peddles her wares. Hell, you can even order pastries from her or get her to bring you lunch with a day’s notice. You can tell from the thought she puts into her offerings every market, the genuine friendliness with which she treats her customers and the fact that she shares so many of her recipes on her website that it’s really more about sharing the food she loves than making making money doing it.
Described on the menu as a popular street food snack, there was no way I wasn’t trying the Khanom-Pang Nah-moo. Basically a paste of ground pork, white pepper, garlic and cilantro spread on white toast then deep-fried and served with a cucumber relish, this dish set a very high bar for me for the rest of the night. The pork spread was divine, the vegetables tasty, and how the hell a dish can be as oily as this one was and NOT make me feel the slightest bit of discomfort is totally beyond my understanding. Crunchy, savory, delicious…more or less perfect. Further proof that street food of most cultures is worth trying.
|“Kalbi” Korean short ribs and rice|
While the roommate worked on her noodles, I decided to peek outside and see what was being offered out there. Pretty much right outside the back door I found the Korean Kitchen table, always one of my favorites (they made the amazing seafood pancakes I had at the first BUM event I attended). This month’s offering was Korean short ribs marinated in soy sauce, onion, spring onions, garlic, ginger, kiwi, lime, carbonated water, sesame oil and sugar. I was afraid with an ingredient list like that, it would be difficult to taste the ribs themselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The meat was really the star of the dish here, everything else serving only to accentuate and compliment it. Why Boise can sustain several Korean churches but not a Korean restaurant, I just don’t know. Luckily, I can look forward to catching a little taste at these markets.
Back inside, we stopped at the Simply Pizza table, which was offering snack-sized pinwheel pizza. My dining companion picked up a pepperoni and basil, which she had already taken down most of before I caught up to her (hence no picture). They had very generously-sized samples of that one that I was able to try, which was good but in my opinion didn’t compare to the one I picked up. I don’t recall seeing it on the menu so I’m not sure what they call it, but the “toppings” were feta, spinach, caramelized onions and roasted red peppers. They appear to be a pretty young business, but I’ll be interested to see where they go with it.
Across the room was BadAss Chocolate, yet another favorite of mine (admittedly run by a friend of mine, but I’m not being biased when I say her stuff is VERY good). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not really a sweets kind of guy, but BadAss keeps making me eat those words. Last market, her Limoncello truffles were my favorite item of the night. We stopped by to pick up a box of those which she was kind enough to set aside after warning me of their limited availability, and seeing something that looked vaguely like soft cough lozenges, I inquired what they might be. The answer was Ginger Caramels. Now ginger is a serious weakness of mine, in fact once a year I make triple ginger cookies (a slight variation of this recipe) that people flip for. That aside, I was skeptical about this item due to some less than thrilling experiences with ginger candies in the past, but I tried a sample. What a fool I was. Once again, BadAss provided me with my favorite thing of the night (I’ve actually got one of them in my mouth as I’m typing this). We each bought one of the caramels and popped them immediately, and the full-sized version absolutely made good on the promise of that sample. Not too sweet, not too spicy, perhaps a little bit soft for a caramel but it’s hard to imagine the flavor could be much better (though she says she is considering some tweaks to the next batch). Someone needs to give this woman a storefront so she can be making things like this full time.
|Pulled Pork Slider with citrus slaw|
Back outside, I made a quick stop by the B29 Streatery table in hopes of finally trying their Bristol Bacon, but no such luck as it wasn’t on the menu that night. Deciding that I should probably go with something small, I opted for their Pulled Pork Slider with citrus slaw. I basically did this against my better judgment because I never have liked slaw on sandwiches, but I wanted to try their version. While the combination still didn’t grab me, the meat was good, the bread was good, and the slaw was good but maddening because it contains a flavor that I definitely recognize but have not been able to place despite hours of racking my brain. If anyone knows what it is, PLEASE tell me. If not, maybe I can weasel the secret out of them the next time we cross paths, since I can’t seem to stay the hell away from their truck…not that I’m really trying that hard.
Next it was over to Sassy Sadie’s Salsa, another favorite of mine (run by another woman I’m fortunate enough to count amongst my acquaintances) even though her stuff is basically too hot for me. No new pictures because I’ve included them in my previous two write-ups and there was nothing really new this time. Well, there was nothing new that would show in a picture, to be exact. The pork tacos were back, but the pork itself went beyond good to simply amazing this time. Extremely juicy, flavorful, and it gave me an excuse to have some of her habanero salsa, which I adore but can’t buy because I would simply never use all of it before it went bad. I’m a wimp, I know, but I HAVE been working on it. With the help of delicious stuff like this, I may become a heat junkie yet. As a side note, while I was procuring tacos for myself and the roommate, she stepped back over to the BadAss Chocolate table to procure a full box of the ginger caramels for me. Yes, they were that good.
Pretty much full at this point but with a little money left in my pocket, I decided to round out the evening by trying the third and final thing on the Nor-mai menu, their Khao-Soi. It’s a coconut curry dish with egg noodles, eggs, pickled mustard greens, shallots and crispy wonton strips. This was another item that I was skeptical about because I’ve never been a fan of coconut and curry mixed, but loving Gina’s food as I do I felt I still needed to try it. I can pretty much conclusively say that after around half a dozen attempts at trying various coconut curries, the combination simply doesn’t move me. I will say, however, that if you DO like coconut curries, you’d probably dig this one. It was mildly spicy, the flavors were good, the pickled greens added a lovely contrast, and who the hell doesn’t like Chinese-style egg noodles? Since Gina always has one or two things I end up absolutely loving, I wouldn’t order this again, but I’m glad I tried it and would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who digs that kind of sauce.
Once again, another successful evening’s eating, and once again I’m already looking forward to the next one. I can’t thank the organizers or the vendors enough for the opportunity these markets give me to try so many handcrafted, homemade foods made with such love by such friendly and passionate people. If you care not only about what it is that you’re eating but also who’s making it and why, these events are a great place to be.