The more write-ups I do about the Boise Urban Market, the worse they seem to get. Once you've explained how it works, there's really nothing left to do but talk about the food. This write-up in particular is going to be especially lame, because I went in solo and short on both funds and time. My favorite salsa and candy vendors were nowhere to be seen. And most importantly, without the roommate there like a devil on my shoulder to get me to try the things I was on the fence about and to try and buy things herself that I wasn't interested in, I pretty much stuck to my favorite Asian tables. Let's start with Gina, a one-woman Thai restaurant (and a damn good one at that) who works under the name Nor-Mai....
Tod Mun Pla
After perusing the Nor-Mai menu, I ended up ordering what would turn out to be my favorite item of the night, the Tod Mun Pla, or deep-fried Thai fish cakes. This is a common street food item, and my adoration for street food is pretty well-documented. Gina served it up with cucumber, red curry and a sweet & spicy chili sauce. Then she did the only thing that could have possibly made them better: she served them on a stick. I loved this item and still wish I had gone back for another serving.
Before leaving the Nor-Mai table, I picked up a box of Pad Thai to eat later. Historically, I've not been a big Pad Thai fan, but when I asked Gina about it several months ago she said that most restaurants around here focus too much on the sweet/tangy component in order to please the Western diner. Gina's version was more of a sweet/spicy, made with thinner rice noodles than I'm used to and topped with "butter prawns". Hands down, the best Pad Thai I've ever eaten, and I hope the recipe makes it on to the Nor-Mai website soon.
My next stop was the Korean Kitchen table, and I was ecstatic to see their Seafood Pancakes on the menu once again. This had been my favorite dish of the first BUM I attended, and I've been suggesting they bring it back ever since. Since I was getting them earlier in the evening this time around, they were still mostly intact and there were greater variations in the textures of the different ingredients. They were delicious (a splash of soy sauce took them to the next level), but there were some white bits I didn't really dig the texture of. I mean I still ate them, but I didn't like them as much as the rest of the dish. I didn't find out until I arrived home later that night and looked through my pictures that I had eaten calamari. This is amazing to me, because while I didn't love it I didn't despise it either, and I had vowed never to eat squid again. Wonders never cease...
Grilled Chili Paste Chicken
I had been hoping for a spicy, chicken-based noodle dish to take home for the roommate. The closest I came was Korean Kitchen's Grilled Chili Paste Chicken. She didn't end up eating it until the next day and the microwave wasn't particularly kind, but I tried a bit while it was still fresh and loved the slightly char-grilled flavor and the sauce, which was flavorfuly spicy rather than just hot.
Beef Brisket and Cornbread Waffle Slider
Rounding a corner while heading back to the main building, I came across a table where a huge, blackened brisket was being sliced. The banner on the front of the table said "Saint Lawrence Gridiron". How could I pass that up? They were offering brisket sliders on cornbread waffles topped with a lightly-sauced slaw. This was easily my second favorite thing of the night. The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth tender (I talked to the proprietor's neighbor who said she had been awakened by the smell of the brisket cooking at four in the morning), and the waffle put a very unique twist on it. I definitely hope to see more from this vendor in the future.
Special Pad Thai
After I finished checking out the rest of the options, I headed back to the Nor-Mai table. I suppose I could have tried some of the other things on offer, but frankly more Asian food sounded better to me than most of the other options. Knowing as I now did that I actually enjoyed Gina's version of Pad Thai, I simply had to try out her other dish of the night, a somewhat modernized version of Pad Thai which she says is kind of a trend in Thailand at the moment. Gina's version replaced the noodles with bean sprouts, made the sauce more robust, and was topped with crispy shrimp wontons. I loved this dish as well (especially the wontons, the things this woman can do with seafood and hot oil...wow), and in fact I still couldn't say now which version of the Pad Thai I preferred.
English Sausage Roll
As I ate the aforementioned Pad Thai, I chatted with Gina's husband, Robert. He had his family recipe English Sausage Rolls on offer, but they weren't moving very well. I guess people weren't wanting a hot, dense, meat-filled pastry. I felt bad for the guy, and since I'd never tried one of the rolls, I bought one. Heavy, flaky, salty, meaty goodness. My only complaint is that I feel it should be a criminal offense to sell these without beer, because they almost demand it. Not necessarily my snack of choice when the temperature is in the 90's, but if they offer these again once Fall rolls around then I'll definitely be in line for them.
Another great market, and the venues are getting better each time. While conversing with one of the organizers, I told her that I hadn't thought they'd be able to top Payette Brewing as a venue, but The Nature Company trumped it with all of the little nooks for the vendors to set up in and the beautiful plants (I can even forgive the huge spiders and giant dragonflies). Her response? "Wait until next month..."