Teams represent six countries in International Cook-off


Ian Klinger

Team Thailand celebrates as they are announced as the winning team at the International Cook-Off on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 in the ballroom. Six teams cooked traditional food from India, Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, Iran and Japan. Photo by Rachael Le Goubin.

Sydney Baltrusaitis

Hungry guests lined up outside of the Student Center Ballroom on Thursday night to sample dishes and beverages from China, Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Iran and Thailand.

Around 700 students and community members came to the annual International Cook-Off. The cultural dishes were prepared prior to the event.

The six teams showcasing their signature dishes competed for first, second and third place along with a people’s choice award based on attendees vote of their favorite dish.

Thailand was the judge’s favorite and took first place along with a trophy, 100 dining dollars and their winning dish will be available in dining halls next week. The team prepared sweet-green chicken curry and Thai tea. Team member Pimpanitta Jittapirom, graduate nursing student, said the basil in the dish helps balance the body. She enjoyed being able to represent Thai food.

“We didn’t expect that many people to like Thai curry chicken or our Thai dishes,” Jittapirom said.

Thailand team member, Chutarat Akkarawongvisit, graduate nursing student, said she enjoyed people tasting their dish.

“It was very nice that we won,” Akkarawongvisit said. “We would like to share our culture and our food to everyone here.”

There was a cultural-mix of guests that experienced dishes from other cultures that were not their own. During the cook-off, The Barefeet Dance Tribe preformed.

One of the three judges, Stina Olafsdottir, manager in the Bursar’s Office, said this is her first time judging the Cook-Off and enjoyed the experience.

“There’s a lot of hard work in here, there’s a community feel and the dishes were wonderful,” Olafsdottir said. “The smells were just amazing!”

India took second place and was awarded a medal and 50 dining dollars. India was also the winner of the people’s choice award. Team India prepared chicken biriyani and a chhas beverage. Team member Rajlakshmi Ghosh, graduate curriculum and instruction student, said chicken biriyani is a national dish.

“It’s a special-occasion dish; we cook it for weddings, ceremonies or any happy occasion,” Ghosh said. “India is pretty much an agriculture-based country, rice is our staple food.”

The dish featured eggs, chicken, vegetables, rice and spices. The beverage, chhas, is a unique mixture of yogurt and cucumber.

Sri Lanka’s ceylon rice and fish cutlets with a mixed fruit and mango beverage took third place along with a medal and 25 dining dollars. Team member Hasanthi Widanagamage, graduate applied geology student, said this is a unique dish for Sri Lanka.

“This dish is not very spicy and all Sri Lankans like it,” Widanagamage said. “We added cashews, vegetables and chicken.”

All the teams participating received a certificate and an International Cook-Off apron.

Students waited in lines to taste dishes from each country. Attendee Lala Mavundza, graduate neurosciences student, said she enjoyed her experience at the Cook-Off and favored India’s dish.

“The portions were perfect because if you ate everything, you would really get filled up,” Mavundza said.

Each team celebrated its culture with authentic dress or cultural items. All of the tables had a poster making it clear what the dishes were and where they came from.

All of the dishes presented by the teams had cultural importance. Team Japan prepared tempura udon along with green tea. The dish featured Japanese-style noodles with seafood broth and tempura vegetables and shrimp.

Team Iran prepared mirza ghasemi and tahchin with saffron soda. Saffron was a widely used spice in Iran’s dish and beverage. They prepared a rice cake and a grilled eggplant stir-fry.

Team China prepared hot and spicy fried rice with pu-er tea. This dish featured Chinese spices, vegetables, meat and seafood. Pu-er tea is similar to black tea.

This event was part of International Education Week recognized by schools across America.

Contact Sydney Baltrusaitis at [email protected].