A fun and interactive way to learn about different cultures is to try their food.
Students of the New Paltz Asian and Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APISA) held Culinary Night on Nov. 1 with the theme of street food. Students gathered in the kitchen of Dubois Hall to try samples of traditional cuisine that can be found in Asian countries.
APISA discusses a wide range of topics concerning Asian countries, such as culture, politics, food, language, clothing and social life for Asians and Asian-Americans.
Co-President Anny Chen, a fourth-year sociology major with a concentration in human services, was interested in getting more involved on campus when she was a freshman, so she joined APISA. She found the club to be interesting and enjoyed meeting new people to deliberate on cultural issues.
“We recently did an adoptee panel where we had a girl from China and a girl from Korea come to talk about their experiences as people who have been adopted,” Chen said. “Next week we’re having someone do a presentation on Nepal because that’s where she’s born. We try to experience and understand that as outsiders.”
For Culinary Night, APISA decides on a theme and what food to make and serve using a poll in their Facebook group for members to vote. They decided on four foods that represented different Asian countries: ddeokbokki, chicken skewers, veggie summer rolls and turon.
Ddeokbokki is a spicy Korean dish that is made with rice cakes, which looks like a thick noodle, with hot pepper flakes and hot pepper paste to give it a fiery kick on your taste buds.
Chen considers the chicken skewers to be a Chinese street food because she’s seen it served in places around Chinatown. It’s a familiar taste to people who’ve bought chicken teriyaki at a food court or at a Chinese restaurant.
A table was laid out with the ingredients for the veggie summer rolls, a vegetarian Vietnamese dish, for people to make their own. You start out by soaking a piece of rice paper in water until it’s soggy, then you place cellophane noodles, napa cabbage, carrots, lettuce and cilantro and roll it up like a burrito.
Last on the menu was turon, a Filipino-inspired dessert of fried plantains rolled in cinnamon and sugar.
Co-President Vivian Chow, a fourth-year double major in organizational communications and digital media management and programming, enjoyed Culinary Night because of the coming together experience.
“There were people that joined the event that do not usually come to our meetings, but I was glad to see new faces of our campus come together to learn about the different cultures and cuisines,” Chow said.
Amanda Maldonado, a student going for her masters in professional studies for the humanistic multicultural education program, heard about the event through Chen. She said her favorite dish was the turon.
“The fried plantains were amazing. It was flavorful and so easy to make,” Maldonado said. “I hope to try making the ddeokbokki in the comfort of my own home.”
Chen hopes to turn Culinary Night into a similar learning experience like the Multicultural Fair, where there are people representing different countries that you have to listen to and collect enough stamps to exchange for food.
“We’re a social cultural club and we’re here to spread awareness, knowledge and education on Asian communities and cultures,” Chen said. “There are a lot of social cultural clubs on campus and if they weren’t here, no one would really know about these issues.”