Refugees bringing their favorite culinary dishes to Idahoans through virtual cooking classes

Posted at 9:18 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 08:49:54-05

IDAHO — Would you like to travel the world tasting different countries' most popular cuisines from the comfort of your own home?

Idaho's Office for Refugees makes that possible for Idahoans with their virtual cooking classes taught by refugees and immigrants.

“It has been one of the most rewarding experiences, especially in this strange year that we are all living through,” says Salome Mwangi, one of the culinary class chefs.

Every month, the Office for Idaho Refugees features a new chef and their favorite authentic dish.

“Oh my goodness, it’s as if I have taken you into my bedroom, and then I have taken you into my closet, and I have shown you the treasures that I typically wouldn’t give to just about anybody,” Mwangi tells Idaho New 6.

The Kenyan dish she made in one of the classes was inspired by her father and where she grew up.

“When I was younger, we lived along the Kenyan Coast, and that is like a melting pot of Indian cooking, Swahili cooking, and Middle Eastern cooking, and it always fascinated me how tasty the food was,” said Mwangi.

Now, that memory is something she's sharing with Idahoans.

“As I have grown up, I have also wanted to keep in touch with that and continue sharing that gift of curiosity when cooking with other people,” said Mwangi.

The class aims to help bring people from all cultures together during such an isolating time.

“Even though we are not together in the same place physically but the spirit of the cooking class was that we were doing it together, and it made it so very rewarding,” said Mwangi.

The Idaho Office for Refugees creates the recipe kits needed to make the dish and then hosts a virtual interactive class on how to cook it while explaining the history behind the dish.

“It really got to be a family thing, and we were all helping in the kitchen and doing things together," said Mitch Lee, a culinary class attendee.

Even though the food is inspired by countries worldwide, the ingredients are made right here in Idaho at Global Garden and other local markets.

“To be able to say that this is actually grown by somebody who came here as a refugee or an immigrant, who is finding their way in the community," said Mwangi. "There is so much to knowing where your food comes from. It is a huge plus, and it is something that we grew up with.”

It's also a class for any level of culinary expertise.

“You’re made to feel like it is a family type thing where you are doing it together," said Lee. "People hold up their dishes lets see what your pasta looks like, or let's see what your dough looks like, and everyone is encouraging. It is kind of like the British baking show.”

In January, Idaho's Office for Refugees is hosting a virtual cooking class featuring dishes from China and West Africa.

To learn more or to sign up, click here.