Finding Home Through Food

Elaine Chen
Some international students missing food from home recommend various specialty markets to satisfy their comfort food cravings. (Photo by Jorene He)

If you’re not Chinese, you probably don’t understand the importance of finding mooncake to eat in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival is a traditional Asian holiday that takes place during the full moon of August in the Lunar calendar — Sept. 24 this year. In celebration, families will gather together for a big meal followed by mooncake, an Asian pastry with a sweet filling. It’s like Thanksgiving in many Asian countries.

This year, as I was walking around Washington Square Park and looking up at the full moon, I realized that I was thousands of miles away from home, and I couldn’t help missing my family. Pictures of mooncake from friends at home made me drool. I missed home in a way only a familiar food could fix.

Many students feel the same way, and some have found the hidden gems that supply the cure for homesickness. Finding specialty markets that carry your favorite foods can be hard but you might be able to find them with the help of some other international students.

Saloni Kumar, a first-year in Steinhart, recommends M2M, a specialty market near campus. M2M sells imported snacks and spices from Japan, Korea, China, Thailand and India. It also has udon, sushi, Japanese and Korean Ramen and other take-out food. Being at the intersection of Greene Street and Waverley Place, it is very convenient to grab a quick bite, and much cheaper than a meal swipe at one of the dining halls.

“I’m from Thailand, so I go there because they have Thai noodles called Mama Noodles,” Kumar said. “They remind me of home.”

But don’t fret, there are a plethora of options to choose from.

San Yu, a first-year in Steinhart, also has her go-to market for whenever she misses Korea.

“My favorite food market is in Koreatown called Woorijip, which means ‘my home’ in Korean,” Yu said. “It has Korean Noodles, fried rice and some special Korean food.”

H-Mart, Hong Kong Supermarket and New York Mart are also all popular specialty markets filled with Korean kimchi, Chinese grilled duck, egg-yolk puff and tons of other delicious foods.

Though chain grocery stores like Trader Joe’s do offer some options, they are rarely authentic. Jorene He, a first-year in CAS, stays away from Asian foods made by American stores.

“I like the food at Trader Joe’s, but sometimes I miss the food back home, so I go to these stores,” He said.

“Because I’m from Asia, walking into a store like Trader Joe’s, I don’t know any food or brand. I have to try different brands and decide what I like. But if I go to M2M, I know what I’m eating.” Kumar said.

Though it’s impossible to completely avoid homesickness, especially when the holidays roll around. All these specialty markets give international students a chance to visit home, without all the planes, trains and automobiles.

Email Elaine Chen at [email protected].

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