Students experience culture, enjoy food at International Food Fair

Iowa State students perform the dance, Dabke at the 2019 International Food Festival. The International Student Council held their event in the South Ballroom of the Memorial Union on April 14.

Mia Wang

The International Food Fair is an event organized by the International Student Council (ISC) to showcase diversity on Iowa State’s campus and bring people together through cuisines from all over the world.

This year’s event took place Sunday in the South Ballroom of the Memorial Union and attracted more than 600 people.

Thirteen student organizations prepared more than 30 food dishes and beverage items. The theme of the event was a “Trip to a Night Market,” meaning the dishes and beverages served are common night market food in each country.

Chandrachur Sengupta, senior in industrial technology and president of ISC, said this year’s International Food Fair was the best one yet.

“We have a lot more people coming this year,” Sengupta said. “We have performances. Lots of organizations sold out, and we also have a scavenger hunt.”

ISC collaborated with the office of sustainability this year to create a more environmentally-friendly event. Members from ISC used to give out plastic cups to attendees but this year switched to biodegradable paper cups.

Adriana Chew, junior in culinary food science and organizer of the Ames Student Association for Malaysians booth, said the preparation for this event was quite time-consuming.

“We used the recipe from last semester, which is the chicken noodle soup, because it was a success,” Chew said. “We also want to introduce something new, which is the curry puff. We started the preparation yesterday. Starting from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Today we came at 8 a.m. again to do it again. We’ve been cooking non-stop.”

Chew said all the work is to make sure the food is 100 percent authentic.

“The process is really tiring and time-consuming because we had to hand make each and every puff,” Chew said. “You can see these curry puffs everywhere on the street in Malaysia.”

Chew also pointed out the there are not many Malaysian food options in Ames, and that’s one of the reasons she and her organization members took the opportunity to serve in the International Food Fair.

“You don’t get a lot of authentic Malaysian food here,” Chew said. “This is a very good chance for us to promote Malaysia as a country because food is what makes Malaysia special.”

This event also gives international student organization members the chance to interact with each other and learn about each other’s cultures.

Abinayaa Dhanagopal, graduate student in aerospace engineering and president of Sankalp, said she didn’t know there were that many student organizations actively working on campus.

“Getting to know their culture and how they prepared the authentic dishes is so interesting because even [when] you go to a restaurant you really can know if that’s how they make it back home in those countries,” Dhanagopal said. “The experience is more authentic.”

The event also attracted many domestic students.

Kienan Otto, senior in computer engineering, said eating food is his favorite way to learn about different cultures.

“It’s interesting to have all these different food options in one place where you get a sample amount of each,” Otto said. “There are a lot more options there than there are in restaurants for Ames area. It’s definitely good for international students who might not feel so comfortable in a new environment. Plus, it gives us an opportunity to try different food they bring here.”

Sengupta said he is pleased with this year’s International Food Fair.

“You don’t see this kind of diversity every day in Ames,” Sengupta said. “This event is open to Ames public, so it will allow them to experience the rich diversity we have on campus. Some of the domestic students are really passionate about learning a new culture. This event is a one-stop shop. They come in. They eat food, and they get to learn new things.”