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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
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Hungry For Some Culture?

Students+Ray+Chiu+and+Stephen+Kong+prepared+a+Korean+dish+called+Kimchi+Bokkeum%2C+a+popular+rice+served+in+South+Korea.
Students Ray Chiu and Stephen Kong prepared a Korean dish called Kimchi Bokkeum, a popular rice served in South Korea.

On April 17, The Asian American Studies Outreach, a branch of the Asian American Studies Program, hosted the first event of its kind, an Asian cuisine cultural cook-off. The event included student cooks in teams of up to three who prepared traditional dishes specific to each one’s country, including food from Cambodia, Korea, China, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

Students were also in on the vote, along with the judges, via computers on site. A series of questions were asked to properly screen each plate because not only were there bragging rights at stake, but the winning team would have an opportunity to see their dish served in the cafeteria, something not everyone can say. Winners of the competition were the Cambodian and Chinese dishes.

Contestants were judged on their ability to cook, prepare, and how the cuisine tasted at the time of the cook-off by a panel of judges. Joan Becker, vice provost for Academic Support was present, alongside Sophia Kim, youth program director for the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. Also attending were David Levine, general manager of Sodexo Dining Services, director of the Institute for Asian American Studies program Paul Watanabe, and Ben Whelan, a professional cook and undergraduate studying philosophy.

The contestants represented a broad range of Asian countries and the dishes traditional to each one. Nimol San, Jojo Mawejje, and Adam Azar prepared a Cambodian dish, comprised of Kabocha pumpkin in sweet coconut cream sauce with tapioca pearl while Stephen Kong prepared a Korean dish called kimchi bokkum rice. Feitong Cai and Qian Li prepared a Chinese dish called “The Dragon and Phoenix Presenting Fortune”, which included sauteed shrimp with brown rice over dragon noodles. This dish had both Shanghai and Beijing styles combined in the preparation and ingredients. Philip Le, Henry Ho, and Jamie Tran prepared a Vietnamese dish called Banh Xeo, which was a Vietnamese savory crepe. Khatima Sadiq Hameeda Sadiq, Ursa Khan, and Nene Mariama Bah prepared Oabali Rice, which is traditional Afghani rice.

The diversity and the size of the crowd the event attracted is proof that members of the UMass Boston community are intrigued by Asian culture and cuisine.