AU’s Asian Food Options Fall Flat | The American Word

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AU’s Asian Food Options Fall Flat

Adena Maier | 1/31/17 12:51pm
| Updated 1/31/17 12:51pm

Pho at Global Fresh.

Jaclyn Merica /
American Word Magazine

Despite having around 130 countries represented in the student body, a large number of students who have studied abroad and a renowned international studies program, AU continues to disappoint when it comes to international dining options. When students are tired of bagels, pizza and sandwiches, their only options for ethnic food are the enigmatic “Asian Flavors” restaurant in the tunnel, Global Fresh’s ambiguous international menu and themed nights in the Terrace Dining Room.

On Thursday, Jan. 26, TDR was decorated for Chinese New Year and although a variety of Asian dishes were offered, several were not Chinese. Among the options were steamed bok choy, Japanese ramen noodles without broth, Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, and hot and sour soup.

“Good ethnic food needs to be prepared by someone who gets it, like someone who understands the food,” said Waner Liang, a sophomore in the Kogod School of Business. Liang and her parents moved to the States from China when Liang was four. She said they would prepare Chinese food for every meal because they hated American food. “I am glad [TDR] decided to celebrate [Chinese New Year] somehow,” Liang said, “but it was just bad food.”

TDR’s Chinese New Year night could have been improved by doing some more research and getting the input of Chinese students or faculty.

Global Fresh, the other main source of international food on campus, changes its menu every semester, and this spring’s theme appears to be Asia in general. With options like Japanese ramen, beef pho and lemongrass chicken, it’s unclear which part of Asia Global Fresh is drawing its culinary inspiration from. On AU’s website, Global Fresh is described as a “global flavor experience” that intends to give students a “true cultural experience,” but several students agreed that the food is inauthentic and not particularly delicious.

To some students, however, the inauthenticity is not a problem. Jonas Schlotterbeck, a junior in the School of International Service, said that while he would prefer the food to be more authentic he considers Global Fresh to be the most unique dining option on campus.

“I don’t think it’s AU’s job to give kids the opportunity to have authentic food, they’re just trying to mass-feed people,” said Jonas. “If you want to eat good food, you need to leave Tenleytown. [AU] has to balance the authenticity of food with what would appeal to the biggest demographic.”

He added that while Global Fresh may not be very authentic, Japanese ramen and beef pho are at least a good step away from fast food Subway and classic-American Elevation Burger.

“[Global Fresh] could be that step above packet ramen that helps introduce people to ethnic food that they haven’t tried before,” said Schlotterbeck.

Katie Vaughn, a junior in the School of International Service, said she considers Global Fresh to be the most edible food on campus but agrees that it can be hit or miss in terms of quality and authenticity. She feels that the issue is AU’s limited dining options overall.

“That’s the nature of Aramark, this kind of corporate dining,” said Vaughn. “They’re looking more for things that are easy to mass produce, and authentic ethnic foods aren’t easy to mass produce cheaply.”

Gabrielle Kean, a senior from the Virgin Islands, said she understands that AU’s main priority is to feed students and not necessarily to provide an authentic cultural experience.

“[The inauthenticity] is somewhat acceptable because we’re a university and we can’t expect world class chefs to fly in, but there’s a lack of effort,” said Kean. “AU prides itself on being diverse, but we always have the same few poorly done East Asian or Mexican food options.”

Many students at AU have never stepped foot inside of the mysterious Asian Flavors restaurant in the tunnel, which has a reputation for being somewhat sketchy and is perhaps the least popular dining option on AU’s campus.

“It’s like train station Asian food,” said Greta Kaufman, a junior in the School of International Service. “It makes you feel kinda gross afterwards, but it feels good in the moment.”

Kean suggested that AU could improve its service by conducting a student poll or creating a suggestions box where the community could leave feedback.

AU could help ensure that the food is prepared or at least approved by someone who understands it by getting input from cultural organizations on campus or hiring food service workers from a variety of backgrounds. Food doesn’t hold much value in American culture, but in many other cultures, food and eating together is extremely important. Both international and local students would greatly benefit from an authentic eating experience on campus.