Boise Restaurants: Falafel Co., Amina’s Middle Eastern Cuisine


Ali Alaali, left, and Aziz Serhan run the Falafel Co. food truck in Boise, serving falafel, shawarma, hummus and delicious sauces.

If you’re one of those people who’s already made your New Year’s resolution a month later, working to find a better work-life balance or whatever your goal is, I’d like to suggest you add something to your list. in 2022: try local restaurants – especially if it’s something outside of your comfort zone!

And here’s a pair to get you started – two places that have great stories and bring rich personal stories to the food they serve.

Amina’s African sambousas

Amina’s started as a vendor at Saturday markets in downtown Boise and eventually moved to a brick-and-mortar location at 6555 Overland Road last September, and it still serves authentic African dishes that are flavorful and filling, and sure to please an adventurous palate.

The menu is extensive: crispy sambusas, tasty rice and stewed vegetables, and well-spiced chicken and beef. And Amina’s is run by a family with an American dream story – refugees who fled turmoil and hardship to create a successful business that celebrates their culture and origins in the United States.

The dining room is a little hushed and a little dull, but the flavors of the dishes make the fireworks. Hot spices such as cinnamon, star anise, paprika and various peppers warmed my tongue and overwhelmed my taste buds – a complex but well-crafted mix of components from my meal that was unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted. had in Boise.

The grilled chicken at Amina is exactly what you want – crispy on the outside, moist and flavorful under the skin, not greasy. The sambusas have a lot of flavor and contrast. Amos Rothstein

I had the vegetarian option of the sambusa, which is basically an African version of an empanada. It had a golden brown finish, with curried potatoes and vegetables inside. The contrast of the crispy, salty exterior mixed with the curry-spiced sweet potato, sweet carrot, zesty coriander and rich onion made this a perfectly balanced start to a meal.

The crispy grilled chicken was perfect, well seasoned, bone and skin on. It was just what you wanted – crispy on the outside, moist and flavorful under the skin, and not greasy. It was served on a bed of rice with a smoky, sweet red pepper sauce. It also came with a subtle yet rich blend of vegetables and spinach. I had plenty of leftovers, and will be back too.

Sambusas are $4, dinners range from $10.50 to $12.99, and a variety of breads are available for $2 to $6. Amina’s is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Falafel Co.

The Falafel Co. food truck finally has a permanent location, at 5114 W. Emerald St., so there’s no need to hunt it down. And its delicious food is well worth finding, with the most expensive dish costing $11.99.

The business was started by Ali Alaali and his brother, who came to the United States from Syria at a young age and wanted to share the food they know. Alaali and her co-cook, Aziz Serhan, now run the truck together, Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Ali Alaali and his brother, originally from Syria, started the food truck Falafel Co. Amos Rothstein

Having lived briefly in the Middle East, I love light and excellent falafel, a combination of ground chickpeas and spices rolled together and fried into a ball. A good hummus and tahini sauce, a very tasty vinaigrette made of olive oil and sesame seeds, put the falafel on top.

The food truck also offers perfectly cooked chicken shawarma, to be enjoyed in a wrap or on a platter, with an oriental salad (chopped tomatoes and cucumbers) and hummus. There are also lamb gyro plates and wraps, which are loaded with vegetables, hummus and tahini. They are slightly oily but also tasty.

Finally, Falafel Co. serves one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes, tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a great accompaniment to any meat option. It’s a wonderful combination of parsley, bulgur, salt, lemon, olive oil, mint and garlic. No matter the time of year, tabbouleh will always taste as lively as summer.

It’s exciting to see authentic Middle Eastern cuisine in Boise and to see young chefs trying to make their mark on the scene. Savor food from different cultures this year – it’s a good resolution.

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