POCATELLO — While she was a student at Idaho State University, Tiphanie Anirah was invited to an African Night celebration on campus.
That night, Anirah tried African food and was instantly hooked. She was particularly attached to a meat and vegetable-stuffed pastry with roots in south Nigeria.
She graduated from ISU in 2016, but that didn’t stop her from continuing to chase those flavors. In fact, she found herself craving those meat pies so often she learned to cook them herself.
Four years later, she began selling the African meat pies she had only recently discovered, along with the cookies and pastries she has loved baking since she was a three-year-old apprentice shadowing her mom in the kitchen.
After starting CreeAnn’s LLC out of her kitchen in the middle of the COVID pandemic, Anirah has since moved her operation into ISU’s commercial kitchen. She bakes her food on campus, then sells it at farmer’s markets, food truck roundups and any other event she can find in and around Pocatello. But the dream for the business has grown since its humble beginnings.
“I’m just really wanting to grow,” Anirah said. “This is definitely not something that I want to do as a hobby or on the side. I’m serious about this.”
Anirah’s signature item is the meat pies. They come stuffed with either beef, chicken or pork and a mix of vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers and spinach. What makes her African meat pies, Anirah explained, is the traditional Nigerian spice blend she uses.
“Of course, you have meat pies from every country, everywhere; what sets this off from everybody (else) is the spices — the traditional ways to make it, the traditional foods to put in it,” Anirah said.
Nigerian cuisine is naturally spicy, she said, joking that her husband’s cooking — his family is from Nigeria — has forced her to increase her spice tolerance. To appease the masses, Anirah tones the spice down in her meat pies.
EastIdahoNews.com tried the pork meat pies, available in packs of two pies roughly the size of a taco. The pork was tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned, and the crust was crunchy.
Her stand at the local events also includes cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls and African sweet bread with homemade honey butter.
As is customary while visiting anywhere that sells cookies, I tried the chocolate chip. A dense treat, it was perfect for milk-dunking but worked just fine as a walking cookie.
Density was also something found in the sweet bread. As Anirah explained, African sugar bread is similar to traditional white bread but heavier and with added sweetness and a touch of nutmeg — one of those spices popular in Nigerian dishes, she explained. The honey butter was a perfect pair for the sugar bread but would also go quite well on cornbread.
Before launching CreeAnna’s, Anirah was in the planning stages of another venture — a YouTube channel offering advice for the care of African-American hair. She liked the idea, but this is her passion.
“I made a couple videos, but I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is for me,’” she said. “I definitely chose what I really like to do, which is to bake.”
According to a recent Facebook post, The Popcorn Shop and More in Pocatello now carries CreeAnna’s cookies.
Those cookies and the rest of Anirah’s menu can be found weekly at the food truck roundup, Monday nights in Pocatello, and the Portneuf Valley Farmers Market Saturdays in Pocatello. You can also follow CreeAnna’s on Facebook — here — for other locations and news.
Orders can also be placed on CreeAnna’s website — here.
“On there, I have all my products — from meat pies to cookies and sweet breads,” Anirah said.
She also makes Chin Chin — a sweet, crunchy snack pastry incredibly popular in Nigeria. That is also available for ordering on the website.
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