25 January 2016: The different seasons of the gastronomical calendar of JNU begin as the tents are pitched for the much awaited International Food fest on 26 Jan night.
Although this is followed by several hostel nights that lay out sumptuous buffets for the fortunate to try, most of them have select crowds and options are limited, on the other hand International Food Fest resembles a food fair.Unlike Hostel Nights, it is not a ticketed event, each stall has a cashier who instantly provides you with coupons after you have gone through a luring menu card displaying friendly rates.
Yes, we call it friendly rates given the amount of effort put in to acquire the raw materials, hiring cooking appliances and standard cooking methods employed in less time (most of the times the items are prepared by students themselves). Passing from one stall to another is like jumping into a different country and relishing their delicacies with out any visa hassles!
This year’s Food Festival is being led by ISA’s President Tsering Tharchin, who hails from Tibet. By and large, International students enrolled as regular, casual or exchange fellows at JNU take it upon themselves to exhibit ISA’s diversity through their spread. Kudos to FSA (Foreign Students Association) set up in 1985, now recognized as ISA (International Students Association) for giving everyone a chance to soak in the diverse campus life.
This time there are going to be 18 participating countries- Indonesia, Russia, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Nepal, South Korea, Bangladesh, Turkey, Germany, Ethiopia, Tibet, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Syria, Thailand, Mauritius and Japan. If you are trying to make a correlation with India’s international relations with these countries over here, you must have noticed America is missing. Sadly, they didn’t call on us this time!
These eighteen food stalls will be managed by their country representatives who form groups to take care of assembling, cooking, and selling the dishes on the counter (check out the list down below, see which one of your friends working).
Not only international students from nearby universities but at times foreign diplomats too, present in the city are spotted at the event. The organizers have not yet received the confirmations from their guests, they shouldn’t worry though, a bunch of them always make surprise entries, at the nth minute!
While our very own Unnoticed Group (NGO) always stages a performance, it remains to see if the little tea shop selling Kashmiri Kehva from last year, which generated much controversy by setting a stall independently right opposite Jhelum lawns (next to ganga bus stop), puts up a show again or not!
If you are someone who hates crowd make it to the spot by six, listen to some welcome speeches and catch quick bites. High chances you will then miss some interesting cultural performances put up by international students themselves, be it singing or dancing in groups, on the stage or at the fair ground. Rest assured unlike other Indian fairs you will not get robbed of your cell phones and wallets (unless you drop it!) in case you do lose anything, the hosts make frequent announcements on stage for all the lost and found items too!
We gathered from the passing birds that this year some exquisite dishes will be laid out to tingle your tatse buds. Make sure you have these on your platter: Tolma and Gatha (Armenia), Martabak Bola (Indonesia), Shawerma and Falafel (Syria). No more beans can be spilled here. Personally, we too are excited and look forward to grub it! Like they say in German “Auf Wiedersehen…”.
List of country representatives: Irfan (Afghanistan), Mane (Armenia), Nasir (Bangladesh), Attisalem (Ethopia), Dominic (Germany), Saadah (Indonesia), Yoshita (Japan), Almira (Khazakistan), Yatasha (Mauritius), Ambika (Nepal), Liupa (Russia), Kwan Woogo (S. Korea), Sari (Syria), Nice (Thailand), Tsering (Tibet), Turgay (Turkey), Sheker (Turkmenistan) and Dildora (Uzbekistan).
Meanwhile you can browse through some of the gastronomical delights from the 21st International Food festival last year. Keep drooling!
The top culinary delights of the International Food Fest from last year, in no particular order:
This dish was so refreshing and scrumptious that we had to mention it first. Regarded as the national dish of Laos, this halal version of the Larb was rich with minced chicken, lime juice, roasted ground rice, mint and coriander leaves. “The response was so overwhelming that we ran out of this salad under two hours”, Thavisith Thavonsouk explained, the stall in-charge when the reporter went back for more.
DAKKOCHI (SOUTH KOREA)
Deeply marinated in a sweet soy glaze, dakkochi (chicken skewers) is a street food delicacy in South Korea, grilled to perfection. We loved how the bits of tender chicken were accompanied by spring onions and green peppers. This dish had a distinctive juicy flavour and before we knew it, only sticks were left on our plates.
This divine Persian dish of layered saffron rice and cooked chicken meat bound together by seasoned yoghurt and egg yolk mixture was a savoury treat. There was a glitch in transportation and the dish was made available only in the latter part of the fest but its distinctive rich appearance and toothsome flavour made up for the delay really well.
They might look a lot like samosas but this Uzbek delicacy was on a healthier note-they were baked in a tandoor. One bite into the snack and the crisp outside married the silky rich feel on the inside so beautifully that we had to grab another. Also, those roasted black sesame seeds were a real stunner.
PAPAYA SALAD (LAOS)
We were sKeptical when we saw ‘papaya’ in the name but after the stall keepers persuaded us on giving it a try, there was no stopping this dish in making it to our list. Sour lime, hot chilli, savoury fish sauce and sweetness by the palm sugar, an indulgence for the devoted foodie.
HONEY AND STYLE CAKE (SOUTH KOREA)
A jelly like chalky feeling hit us when we took a piece of the Korean style cake and we were left perplexed about the experience, it was when we had the honey cake together that we got its surreal complex flavour in check. Sweet, sour,salty, bitter and umami-this dish was a wholesome treat to say the least. We loved it.
APPLE PIE SHARLOTKA (RUSSIA)
This was the best desert of the fest and hence had to be listed here. Filled with caramelised apples, having this baked pie was completely guilt free. Worthy of mention here is that the Uzbek and Russian stall was all colour and glamour with its décor and that reflected pretty well in what they had to offer.
Keep a check on this section, for this year’s food review at the fest. See you at the International Food Fest tomorrow!
Disclaimer-Opinions expressed are personal.
Dhaval Bhate and D. Jennifer are reporters at The Informer. Picture credits to Dhaval and the Team.