07/28/2006 — There are more ethnic food markets than meet the eye around town. Many of them are tucked away in strip malls and in off-the-beaten path neighborhoods throughout the Valley.
Here is a look at a few good ones:
9975 W. Fairview Ave.
Asia Market is one of the largest (if not the largest) Asian grocery store in Boise.
Proprietor Leslie Dao grew up in southern Vietnam, yet her store offers much more than just Southeast Asian foodstuff. The shelves at Asia Market also are packed with ingredients from Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines.
A long row of refrigeration and freezer units line one wall. Behind these doors shoppers can find everything from fresh Asian produce (which comes in on Saturdays) to Vietnamese-style sausage to tubs of locally made kim chee to frozen egg roll wrappers.
The store stocks large bags of rice, like jasmine, Japanese sticky, Chinese brown and the broken Vietnamese variety. Shoppers can find dried noodles galore, too.
Not too far from the rice, the sauce selection glistens under fluorescent lights. Dao keeps a large array of vinegars, Thai curries, sambal oeleks, hoisin, sweet chili sauce and golden fish sauce.
And there are not many other places in town that carry pickled lemon, salted prunes and big bags of dried shiitake mushrooms.
Besides grocery items, Asia Market also stocks decorative Oriental bowls, plates and Vietnamese coffeemakers.
Specializes in Southeast Asian ingredients
1702 S. Five Mile Road
Specializes in Korean foodstuff
10387 W. Fairview Ave.
602 N. Orchard St.
This easy-to-miss Indian grocery store is in a Cold War-era strip mall along a busy stretch of Orchard Street.
Owner Hasmukh Patel, a transplant from northern India, primarily deals in ingredients from India and Pakistan.
Patel keeps his shelves well stocked with exotic spices such as fenugreek, black cumin, panch puran and boxes of seasoned flour for making crunchy pakoras.
This definitely is the place to go for jarred curry sauces and pickled Indian foodstuff.
Besides the famous Patak's label, Patel also carries other brands of spicy vindaloo, garam masala, hot mango relish, lime-ginger pickle and brinjal, a piquant eggplant relish.
I almost forgot to mention the jars of pickled gooseberries.
Fresh produce, which comes in every Friday, is kept in a walk-in cooler near the back of the store. In here, shoppers can score assorted eggplants, bitter melon, coconut, herbs and large knots of ginger.
Other refrigeration units hold bags of naan and kulcha (incredibly delicious flatbread), semi-soft paneer cheese and a great selection of heat-and-eat frozen dinners, many of which are vegetarian.
By the cash register, it's hard not to miss the large bags of basmati rice, split yellow lentils, durum atta flour and short grain masoori rice.
Other critic-recommended Indian/Middle Eastern markets:
Specializes in Afghan, Middle Eastern and Indian ingredients
5751 Overland Road
1424 2nd St. N.
Rita's Bakery, situated in an old gas station in downtown Nampa, has become an institution over the years. But this bakery (or panderia) does more than just make Mexican bread and cakes.
The shelves at this small store are filled with freshly made corn tortillas, assorted picante sauces, cans of peppers and marinated carrots, bags of masa harina and corn husks for making tamales.
The coolers are packed with Fanta soda and Jarritos brand refrescos, a Mexican soft drink that comes in a variety of flavors, like guava and tamarind.
A short hallway connects the main portion of the store to a butcher shop and carniceria (prepared meats) in the back.
In addition to various cuts of beef and long strands of tripe, shoppers can pick up freshly made pork tamales, carnitas (fried pork butt) and house-made pork rinds called chicharrones.
Rita's also doubles as a taqueria, with a window on the outside of the building for a take-out business. Here diners can buy delicious traditional tacos (made on white corn tortillas), torta sandwiches, burritos, sopes and tostadas.
The red and green salsas are made fresh daily.
Other critic-recommended Mexican markets:
Specializes in Mexican groceries,
taqueria and carniceria
5200 Fairview Ave.
Specializes in Mexican groceries and baked goods
4596 Chinden Blvd.
10390 W. Fairview Ave.
There aren't many European markets in Boise, but Little Russia International Foods has the bases covered when it comes to foodstuff from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Bosnia, Latvia and Germany.
This bright and clean market, owned by Ukraine-transplant Lina Silver, is extremely popular with European expats who come to fill their shopping baskets with everything from frozen Russian dumplings to smoked fish to semi-hard Polish cheese.
The deli case is packed with long links of smoked Polish sausage (the good stuff from Chicago), spicy salami and Russian bologna that's similar to mortadella.
A separate case holds pickled mackerel, affordable salmon caviar, smoked sea bass, turbot and semga, a salmon/trout-like fish from northern Russia.
Shoppers also can find northern European dairy products, like Finnish Muenster, Polish butter, semi-hard Russian cheese and soft farmers' cheese from Canada.
Been looking for beetroot paste? Little Russia has jars of that crimson stuff, plus tomato-apple paste, marinated red cabbage, assorted pickles, stuffed peppers and grape leaves.
Seafood enthusiasts also will enjoy the stacks of canned fish, like pickled herring, catfish in tomato sauce and smoked sprats in oil.
Satiate your sweet tooth with a piece of Russian candy or a bar of dark European chocolate.
Let's not forget the Bosnian and Turkish coffee and Russian-style teas.
Other critic-recommended European markets:
Specializes in Basque and Spanish foods and wine
608 W. Grove St.
Specializes in foodstuff from Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic
6555 Overland Road