NEW DELHI, India: Unmindful of the crowd swelling around him, Linc Zi Quing savoured the Afghani burrani while his Indian friend struggled in the queue for the Italian chocolate banana cake. Flavours of the world wafted through the air at the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus as the sun went down on Wednesday. Foreign students from 18 countries celebrated the Republic Day by cooking their traditional dishes and laying out a feast that equally tempted and pampered the tastebuds of friends, faculty and visitors.
From Chinese chicken, German waffles and Russian blinis (pancakes with cream and butter) to Palestinian falafels (patties made of chickpeas and beans), Tibetan momos and Bangladeshi patisaptas (rice flour rolls with coconut filling) – almost every dish at the annual international food festival was lapped up in no time. The delicacies were prepared by students with the help of their embassies and some niche restaurants. The festivals had an array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. One of them which few chose to leave out was the Coca Cola chicken made by a Chinese student. The name first brought them to the stall and its taste kept bringing them back.
“It’s a dish Chinese students often make when studying abroad as it’s easy to cook. We just have to cut the chicken into small pieces, put them in the cola drink, add garlic, ginger and other spices and cook till it’s dry. It has to be covered while cooking so that the cola flavour is retained,” said Yang Yang, who is doing his post-graduation in economics from JNU. The other dishes on the Chinese menu were chicken with sesame seeds, momos, scrambled eggs with tomatoes and white fungus thick soup for the vegetarian. “This soup is really good for health,” he added.
The South Korean stall took pride in the rising demand for its Tteoks, which are supposed to be small cakes made with glutinous rice flour. “It has honey inside and people are really liking it,” said Lee Hwapying, better known as Peace in JNU. The stall of Abhigyan, a group of students that works for the welfare of underprivileged children, had cuisines from Libya, US, Germany, Italy and India. “We offer chicken with tomato and bread, potatoes with minced meat inside and cakes of three types. The chocolate banana cake was over within the first hour of the festival,” said Eleonora from Italy who studies sociology at JNU.
All dishes at the festival were priced between Rs 10 and Rs 100. But the Palestinian stall distributed falafels for free for a cause. Though there are just three students from Palestine on the campus, others from their homeland residing in the city joined them for the preparation. “We want to spread awareness about the state of affairs back home. I am from Gaza Strip but I have been studying in Delhi for six years. We made falafels because they are quite popular in the entire Middle East,” said Ihab, a BTech student who had come over to help his JNU friend.
The Foreign Students’ Association (FSA) that organized the fest estimated that nearly 10,000 people would visit the food stalls till midnight. “We have come to JNU from different parts of the world and we believe that the Republic Day should be honoured with cultural exchange among us. This is our way of giving respect to this important day,” said Tawheed Reza Noor, a research scholar and president of FSA. The other countries with food on offer were Armenia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Nepal and Thailand.
Though the crowd put off many, the food left them wanting for more. Nisha Chauhan, who came to JNU from Janakpuri, said, “My son’s friend studies here. I am coming here for the second time. The best part of this fest is that the dishes here are very simple as they are made by students. They are obviously new to us and can be tried at home.”