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TWIN FALLS — Just like any good gathering, food was the centerpiece of the Magic Valley Refugee Day celebration.

And if you don’t show up early, it’s often gone within an hour. Last year, Rich Miller made the rookie mistake of showing up late. He had to watch cultural performances with an empty belly and plate. It was his first time attending, and he didn’t get to sample anything. This year, he showed up as people started lining up and got to try almost every country’s culinary samples. His favorite was the Burundi booth serving curry and rice pudding.

“It’s just a good relations type thing,” Miller said. “We know a few refugees, and it’s good to connect and support the ones we know, and get to know the ones we don’t.”

The eighth annual Magic Valley Refugee Day was held Friday evening at the College of Southern Idaho. The public event is hosted by the CSI Refugee Center and is an opportunity for the refugee community to share their culture and cuisine with the community. It is also a chance for ethnic populations that have relocated to southern Idaho to thank the community for their support.

For Khogali Mohamed, the annual event is a chance for him to share his love of food with his neighbors.

He was a chef and restaurant owner for seven years in his native country of Egypt. He has lived in Twin Falls for nearly three years.

He currently works at a local grocery store, but said he’d like to own his own restaurant in Twin Falls some day.

“I want people to try it,” Mohamed said. “I want people to know the food in my country.”

He motioned to the aasieda and mulah weika in foil pans under the sign “Sudan.”

The mulah weika is like a chili served over the aasieda, which has the texture of gelatin. It is Mohamed’s favorite dish.

Mohamed said what makes Sudanese food stand apart from other countries is that rice is not a staple. Instead, diners will find eggplant, okra and tomatoes. The cuisine also features chicken, beef and potatoes.

On the table was also a dish called salatat aswad or eggplant salad.

It’s served as a dip, a side dish with bread or as a sandwich. And you can’t forget condiments, Mohamed said, pointing to a glass bowl containing sliced lemons and fresh green chilies that can go with any of the dishes. Across the CSI lawn, Ekhlas Kafree was dishing out kebabs and falafels at a booth featuring Iraqi food.

Kafree is a cook at The Mediterranean, a restaurant serving traditional Iraqi dishes in downtown Twin Falls. The restaurant opened in May and is owned by Hussein Ali, who moved to Twin Falls from Pennyslvania.

Kafree said she has been cooking for years, describing herself as home cook. She has lived in Twin Falls for five years.

When asked why she likes to cook, Hussein Aho Ali translated for Kafree, “Because she wants to make money and she likes it.”

About an hour after the event started, booths were already starting to close up after food ran out. Crowds of people started to form around a stage where groups performed dances from their countries.

Luckily, Tara Williams was able to sample enough dishes before the food ran low.

“It was amazing,” Williams said. “It was so good. I tried to get to them all but I ran out of room.”

Williams is an ESL counselor at Canyon Ridge High School. The school holds an International Week, so many of the foods were not new to her.

“I love the different spices and the different foods,” she said.

She also knew a lot of the refugee youth walking around the event.

“Yes, hello my dear,” Williams said to a girl who stopped to hug her. “I miss you.”

“We love you,” the girl said, as she walked away with her friends.

With a full stomach, Miller was taking in performances on the stage. He had a tip for those thinking about attending the annual event next year.

“Come early,” Miller said.

Then he paused, thinking about his advice.

“No,” he said. “Come late. More food for me.”

Didn’t make it to Refugee Day? Try your hand at making some of the dishes on your own.

Aasieda

Ingredients:

½ kg sorghum flour

½ liter of water

½ cup yeast

1 tsp salt

Add ½ kg flour, ½ liter of water and yeast into bowl and mix together. Leave in warm place for five hours to rise. Boil 1 liter of water with salt. When water is boiling, add aasieda mixture and mix with a wooden spoon. Mixture should start to thicken (add more flour if dough is thin), add ½ cup of water and simmer until bubbling. Pour into bowl and let stand until cool and thick. Turn upside down onto plate to serve, covering with mulah weika.

Mulah Weika

Ingredients:

5 red onions

1 cup vegetable oil

Coriander, fennel, hot pepper, salt

500g ground beef

2 tbsp dried okra

½ cup tomato paste

Chop onions and fry in oil (traditionally peanut oil) until crispy and dry. Blend onion with a little water. To the remaining oil, add mince meat and fry. Add 2 cups of water and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.

Add ½ cup of tomato paste and simmer for five minutes. Add blended onions and spices and add to stew. Add dried okra and stir for two minutes.

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Salatat aswad (eggplant salad)

Ingredients:

Eggplant (peeled, thinly sliced and fried)

Chopped onion

Vegetable oil

Peanut butter (crunchy)

Hot pepper

Lime juice

Mix all ingredients together and mash. Served as a dip, side dish with bread or as a sandwich.

Kheer (Nepali rice pudding)

Ingredients:

1 cup of rice

1 cup half and half

2 cups whole milk

1 ½ cups of sugar

1 teaspoon cardamom

2 tablespoon unsalted cashews

Optional:

2 tablespoons cashews

½ teaspoon elachi powder

½ teaspoon saffron

Cook rice with whole milk. Add half and half, sugar, cashews and spices. Boil for a few more minutes. Serve hot.

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