The Authenticity of International Food on Campus

Hints of ginger, soy sauce, and curry roam the air as students wait on line to get a taste of home on a busy mid-day afternoon. Lines of students can be found inside Jasmine, Stony Brook’s main Asian cuisine hub. The array of Chinese, Korean, and Indian dishes leave some students satisfied with what they call a meal away from home and others not completely.  

“The Chinese food here taste okay, it’s not traditional,” international student, Xi Chen, said. “Some dishes are a mix of Chinese food and American food.”

Adding on the word “American” takes away the authenticity of the food served not just at Stony Brook University but around many parts of America and the world. With a great distinction in flavor, cultures often Americanize food to cater to the food palate of the U.S and its audience.

Authentic Chinese food looks nothing like the American Chinese food served at restaurants and venues. Many of these dishes vary by region in China, according to ChinaHighlights.com. The many combination platters including Beef and Broccoli and General Tso's chicken are substitutes to what Chinese students eat back at home.

“The real authentic Chinese food here is more expensive by almost 50%,” international Chinese student, Hengdong Qu, says pointing at “Empire Pavilion's” take out menu list of  “Authentic Chinese Dishes." On the list the ‘braised stew pork thigh’ is $21.95 versus the small “Americanized” sweet and sour chicken for $9.95. The price difference of more than $10 goes up when flavors from the other side of the world gets added in.

“The chicken that is iced is not as good as the chicken you cut down live,” Qu said. Qu states that authentic Chinese food back in his homeland of Southeast China, is always made fresh.

 

Even though fresh food, might be better for you, it costs more to make and cost more to buy which naturally creates a rift between buying fresh or buying cheap.

For some international students, it’s almost a similar case but they don’t buy cheap they pay more to get the food from one of the foreign cuisine options on campus. From sushi, to having a taste of the Caribbean, main entrees like these estimate to be at least $10 or more. With the new addition of East Side Dining, campus dining has been adding more food options to fit the needs of Stony Brook’s diverse campus but some feel that it’s still not enough.

“To be very honest, not much of a choice or variety in the food, it’s really the same food every day. I see a bit of Chinese food and so on but nothing from my homeland here [Pakistan],” Freshman international, Wali Pirzada, said.

Part of the problem being the structure of his meal plan, Pirzada does find the Indian food in Wang decent but doesn’t eat there often.

“I feel a bit uncomfortable I guess because of the fact that I would have to pay separately for food that I’m familiar with versus eating the same kind of food all the time” Pirzada said.

“International food” on campus gives students more options but the authenticity of it leaves students to question what real international food is.