June 20, 2021 is World Refugee Day! We encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, patronize one of Erie’s many refugee-owned markets to purchase ingredients, and try one of the dishes below.
Want to visit a market but don’t know what to buy? Follow the recommendations of Shannon Meyers. Shannon is a VISTA volunteer working to improve access to healthy food and wanted to learn more about Erie’s New Americans. Shannon visited three markets and purchased a different drink and items for a healthy, easy-to-prepare dish at each location.
In addition to the recipes below, you can find a downloadable pdf of local Refugee-Owned businesses here. Read more about Erie Arts & Culture's celebration of World Refugee Day and watch a documentary of three of the markets here.
This post was written by Shannon Meyers and Kelly Armor.
Shannon Meyers is from Columbus, OH and graduated from Mercyhurst in 2020 with a degree in public health and sustainability. Currently she is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Mercyhurst on improving food deserts through the development of Tower Gardens and working with local corner stores.
Kelly Armor is Erie Arts & Culture’s Folklorist in Residence and is responsible for identifying, documenting and assisting folk artists and tradition bearers in Erie, Warren, Crawford, Lawrence, Mercer, and Venango counties.
All in One Market
3304 Pine Avenue
This market has a large inventory of spices, produce, dried lentils, housewares, and clothing. A popular dish among Erie’s Bhutanese Nepali is Chatpate, a spicy salad made with muri (unsweetened puffed rice). You can purchase muri here or at any of the other Nepali markets. The store is run by the Chuwan family.
Chat patay is a lot like a tossed salad or salsa. Everyone makes it a bit differently. You can add other vegetables, peanuts, curry powder, or substitute parsley for the cilantro. Play with your own balance of crunchy, soft, spicy and salty. There are also many chat patay recipes online.
Shannon also sampled a Mango Lassi, a drink made with yogurt, water, mango, and spices. It has the consistency of a milkshake and helps cool down your palate if you’ve had too much spice.
- 1 cup muri (puffed rice)
- 2 small potatoes, peeled, cooked and diced
- 1 package ramen noodles
- ¼ cup Cilantro leaves chopped
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- ½ cup diced cucumber
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 green chilies or cayenne pepper (if you like it hot)
- Pinch of turmeric for color
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt (or to your taste)
- Mix all the ingredients (except the muri) in a large bowl. Add the muri when you are ready to eat, otherwise it will get soggy.
Peace African Market
1154 East 26th Street
Much of the inventory in this small market is in the freezers, stuffed full of whole frozen fish and African greens. Also in stock are sacks of white corn and cassava flour to make fufu, a staple of many African households. Shannon purchased a bag of raw peanuts and made a savory peanut soup, popular across the continent of Africa. It is typically served over a starch and depending on the region, it can include meat, yams, and whatever leafy greens are available. Here is a recipe from Ghana, and here is one from Sierra Leone.
If you want to make something really easy, simply roast the raw peanuts on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Toss them with salt while they are still warm.
The owner, Mr. Omar, is proud to carry three different kinds of ginger beer. “The Africans don’t like ginger ale. They want something with more flavor,” he reports. These soft drinks are spicy and ginger is known to have anti-inflammatory benefits, relieving nausea and improving digestion.
2325 Parade Street
Almadina sells produce, Halal meat, and a full range of products for Erie’s Syrian and Iraqi communities. A local family makes a traditional flatbread and delivers it to Almadina three times a week. Shannon purchased flatbread, za’atar, and labne to assemble a simple snack.
Za’atar is a mixture of dried thyme, sesame seeds, and other spices. Its history goes back to biblical times and the word za’atar comes from the ancient name of wild oregano. Today it has a reputation of being a brain food and cure-all, as it is rich in antioxidants. It is popular for breakfast in the Levant region (Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine Syria, and Israel).
Haleel, Almadina’s cashier, is from Iraq. She moved to Jordan when she was young. One day in school, a friend introduced her to za’atar by offering to share her lunch. She still loves za’atar and this memory of her welcoming friend.
Almadina has a wonderful array of sodas, including a line of fruit drinks infused with basil seeds. The drink has a light, gelatin-like texture, a hint of fruit, and the basil flavor is almost undetectable.
Shannon says, “Visiting the corner stores seems intimidating, but the store owners are warm, welcoming and happy to discuss their traditional food. It’s amazing the variety of food available to us, right here in the City of Erie, right under our nose! Cooking these traditional dishes was a great experience. I got to try something new and introduce myself to new cultures. I can’t wait to go back to the stores, share my experience with the owners, and find a new recipe to try.”
- Olive oil
- Labne (Kefir cheese)
- First, warm up a piece of flatbread and dip it into olive oil and then into the za’atar. Or, drizzle the bread with oil and sprinkle it with za’atar. Spread labne, a healthier alternative to regular cream cheese or sour cream, on top or eat it on the side.