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Global Gourmet Banquet gives Western a taste of the world

Popular dishes from across the globe were presented to about 80 people at the Global Gourmets Banquet Feb. 22.

The banquet was put on by International Student & Scholar Services, the Institute for Global Engagement and University Catering.

Western’s international students helped plan a four-course dinner including food from Tatarstan in Russia, inner Mongolia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

Naomi Ng, an international student from Malaysia, said the banquet was an experience that allowed her to showcase her country.

A Malaysian dish called nasi lemak // photo by Josh DeJong

Ng made nasi lemak, which is a mixture of flavors. The rice has a coconut milk taste. There is a saltiness from the anchovies, a refreshing flavor from the sliced cucumbers, egg and the spicy Sambal chili paste, Ng said.

“Everyone in Malaysia loves nasi lemak, be it Chinese, Malay, Indian — any race. We all love nasi lemak and we eat it any time of the day,” Ng said.

Ng compared Malaysian culture with another Malay food, rojak. Rojak is a dessert dish that includes cucumbers, pineapple and mango mixed with peanut sauce, Ng said.

“The easiest way to talk about culture is to share bread with people.”

Vicki Hamblin, executive director for the Institute for Global Engagement

“We usually call ourselves rojak, because [Malaysia] is a melting pot of everything,” Ng said. “[Malaysians] are multiracial, very diverse, having so many races, so many cultures, so many religions, and yet we still live under one roof.”

Airat Gabdrakhmanov is a student from the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. He showcased a noodle soup and echpochmak, a pastry filled with meat. For the banquet, the pastry was filled with potatoes.

Because there is a Russian restaurant in Bellingham, Gabdrakhmanov  wanted to present something they didn’t offer. Bellingham residents don’t often have the chance to try Tartar food, so Gabdrakhmanov chose echpochmak over traditional Russian food, he said.

Tatarstan is unique because of how its cultures come together, Gabdrakhmanov said.

Food is prepared before the banquet // photo by Josh DeJong

“Tatarstan is quite famous in Russia due to the fact that we have two main religions, Christianity and Islam,” Gabdrakhmanov said. “People representing those religions live together in peace and harmony.”

Richard Bruce, Western’s ISSS director, said the event was originally proposed four years ago by Patrick Durgan, a former chef of Western Dining Services.

The purpose of the event is learning about different people from different countries and cultures by sitting down and having a meal, Bruce said.

“We have students from a few different countries present a dish or two that is representative of their country and culture that they feel strongly about,” Bruce said. “They work with the chef [Steve Erbe] and the catering staff to put [the event] together.”

Vicki Hamblin, executive director for the Institute for Global Engagement, said Global Gourmet helps make international students more visible, better integrated and more welcome at Western.

This event allowed international students to share their perspectives and cuisine from their backgrounds, Hamblin said.

“The easiest way to talk about culture is to share bread with people,” Hamblin said.

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