International flavors spark changes to UDCC


Kennedy DeRaedt/Iowa State Daily

International Food Night was held on Nov. 10 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church from 7:00 to 9:30pm. Food from all over the world was represented at this event.

Jake Dalbey

New changes will soon come to the Union Drive Marketplace international food choices and services.

Among one of the fastest growing food trends associated with young adults is experimenting with and eating foods and spice profiles of international origin, a trend seen and acted upon by Union Drive Community Center’s chef de cuisine Jeremy Bowker.

“A lot of times students in general, not just international students, are liking the international style of the foods and the flavor profiles that go along with them, so we’re trying to add as many international options as possible without overloading the menu,” Bowker said.

One of the biggest contributors in satisfying the growing popularity and demand for international cuisine is the simple plate stand inside of UDCC, where a variety of new options are tested with students.

“In simple plate, you’ll see many international influences. This is mainly due to international food profiles being very heavy. For example, the noodle bowl and quinoa bowl are offered every other Thursday and act as a base where we can add different flavors such as sriracha,” Bowker said.

Though these types of dishes have seen an increase in production and variety inside of the dining center, pleasing all international taste buds still remains an issue as ingredients can often be hard to come by in the United States. 

“Just like anyone, international students want that type of homestyle food they are used to, but it can be difficult for us to give it to them sometimes just because we can’t get the product,” Bowker said. “We had someone from Indonesia, and we made tempeh, so I asked how they wanted it, and they responded with lots of chilies and crazy spice, but it just doesn’t work in this kind of environment.”

However, ISU Dining has made efforts to raise satisfaction with international dishes by using new ingredients and products.

A recent change included the addition of a new type of rice and noodle. Originally dishes containing rice were made from a simple converted batch, but now grains such as basmati are being incorporated. This also applies to the noodle dishes, which in the spring will include a more traditional medium-sized ramen noodle as compared to the current, gluten-free rice noodles.

Alongside with variations of current dishes is the ongoing initiative to serve those with restrictive dietary needs either stemming from health concerns or religious purposes.

The most prevalent of these restrictions at UDCC is that of halal cooking and preparation. Based on actions and products that are not allowed according to Islamic law, students who practice halal may receive personal meals tailored to fit their needs.

Under halal, foods that include intoxicating beverages, pork, animals not slaughtered in the name of Allah and animals beaten or gored to death aren’t allowed to be consumed.

“We work with our food distributors and our meat buyer to order halal chicken and beef. We then bring the product back here to be prepared where the student can tell the chef who they are and receive their meal,” said Lisa Noltin, dietitian for UDCC. “There’s been a big increase in halal meals over the past year, and I think part of that is students finding out they can receive that as an option.”

Plans for future improvements to ISU Dining at the Union Drive Marketplace are being created as new options are discussed and enacted for the spring semester.

“I got done working on the spring menu, and we’re introducing a coconut curry soup , as well as a panang curry which is an Indian-style curry and that will also be available at Seasons,” Bowker said. ”Every year, we try to get new dishes in the center and organize events in coordination with student groups, we are also involved with the International Food Week every year which gives us a lot of ideas of what to try.”

As the appointment of a new dining director looms, the state of ISU Dining and international cuisine is available and open for change with new ideas from students. Brittney Rutherford, marketing coordinator for ISU Dining, said a new director can bring in new perspectives. 

“Ultimately, we are here to serve the students, so if there is a demand they are seeing from the culinary side for students to have that type of food, we’ll continue to make it,” Rutherford said.