Students, community members celebrate International Food Fair


Erika Sharma, a community member working with the Nepalese Students Society, serves traditional Nepalese food Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, during the International Food Fair in the Student Center ballrooms. International Festival 2017 continues at 7 p.m. Friday with the Cultural Show in the Student Center ballrooms. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

By Francois Gatimu

Ramesh Neupane woke up before the break of dawn to add final touches to the dishes he prepared the night before.

“I was helping China chop the vegetables and the Caribbean carry their food in preparations for the festival,” said Neupane, a doctoral candidate in education administration.

Neupane put his skills to work preparing classic recipes represented at the International Food Fair on Wednesday. He and his group brought Momo, the signature dish of their home country of Nepal.


For international students, the fair was a chance to showcase their countries and cultural heritage through cuisine.

“This is the one day they can cook their international food, they can wear their national dress, they can share their culture with Americans,” Neupane said.

The International Student Council continued its week-long series of events —which commenced with Monday’s flag parade across campus — by hosting a food fair in the Student Center Ballrooms. Tickets were sold for 50 cents apiece with a full plate ranging in cost from about six to 15 tickets.

The event heralded cuisines from ten different nations: Nepal, India, China, Korea, Japan, Nigeria, Iran, Caribbean and Sri Lanka. Most students cooked food authentic to their home countries.

Tina Sickinger, an immigration specialist at the Center for International Education, adds to a collection of notes Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, during the International Food Fair in the Student Center ballrooms. Sickinger said the display was a way for others to show solidarity with international students who may not feel welcome in the United States. Notes written by fairgoers will be read Friday during the International Festival Cultural Show. (Branda Mitchell | @branda_mitchell)

“We want to show our culture, our tradition,” said Alexandra Akaakar, a Nigerian student, while serving Jerk chicken. “We would like to have people share in our culture in the U.S.”

Large paper plates and plastic ware were distributed to hungry patrons as they filled the Student Center to taste cuisine from around the world. The ballrooms were packed with people, many of them friends of the SIU community.

Yemmy Fashina,  president of the African Student Council and a senior in aviation flight, said Jollof rice, a west African dish, was especially difficult to make, and cooks were strained for time to prepare the dishes for the event.


A lot of people came back for second helpings, Fashina said, describing the food as a real “crowd-pleaser.”

“I brought my sons because it is a wonderful time to introduce different cultures and nationalities through their foods,” said Robin Lindsey, who came to try some Momo made by Nepalese students.

“The intimacy you get on the table bridges gaps,” she said.

Staff writer Francois Gatimu can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @frankDE28.

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