Food is an integral part of culture; with each nation having their own unique dishes, often very different from one another and call for unusual ingredients. England’s, according to National Geographic, is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Jamiaca’s is Ackee, a Caribbean fruit which resembles scrambled egg when boiled, and Saltfish. Furthermore, Korea’s is Bulgogi, a dish consisting of marinated and grilled prime cuts of meat accompanied by spinach and fermented vegetable pickle. Each of these dishes incorporate very different components, as well as methods of cooking, which results in many international students sometimes finding it difficult to recreate their own country’s dishes due to the scarcity of ingredients in the UK.
When asked if he could make traditional dishes from home in Southampton Constantinos Pouangare, a second year ITO student from Cyprus, answered: “Yeah, I can make traditional food in the UK but unfortunately some ingredients are missing here in Southampton, so I bring them with me every time that I come to England.” He went on to explain that the source for a specific type of rice from Cyprus which is similar to wheat does not exist in Southampton.
Many international students, including myself, bring ingredients, such as seasonings, back with them from their countries of residence so as to enjoy the real thing and allow others to experience their culture in a delicious way. Elisa Stefaniak, a second year Computer Science student from Poland was asked the same questions and replied that “Quite often yes, I don’t cook that many things from home but mostly when I do I don’t have trouble finding them.” She went on to explain that ‘the spices we use are mostly the same.’ However, she observed a lack of variety in stores in the UK, saying that ‘Sometimes I have some trouble with ingredients as there isn’t as much variety of things, and for example sausages are a bit different and in which case I find them in international shops.’
For any International student looking to cook a dish from home, it is essential to visit an international food store. If you find yourself unable to locate a store catering for international needs, then make sure you ask around, as the University is a hub for international cultures which will subsequently ensure that local stores caters to some international dietary needs – if not most! I myself struggled when I first came to England, finding ingredients in order to make some of the foods from home, which at first I didn’t feel I could live without. For example, one of my favourite side dishes from Barbados is plantain wrapped in bacon. I went into all the large food stores such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco, but I could not find them anywhere. Later in the semester I discovered the ‘International Foods’ store in Portswood through an Indonesian friend who too had found locating some foods difficult. On making my way into ‘International Foods’ I not only found plantain but other vegetables and seasonings which were key ingredients in Barbadian dishes.
‘International Foods’ stores can be found throughout the UK. It supplies many different types of cuisine including Indian, Asian, European, Arabian, North African, South American and Caribbean. However, there are most likely many more stores that also cater for Internationals; it is just a matter of looking around for them.
Yes, I can make traditional food in the UK – but unfortunately some ingredients are missing here in Southampton, so I bring them with me every time that I come to England.Constantinos PouangareInternational Student
Although there are ingredients that cannot be found or prove very difficult to find in the UK, such as types of fish like flying fish or Mahi Mahi and seasonings, there are always alternatives. For example, throughout the Caribbean there is something called a roti, which is basically a dhalpuri wrap filled with curried vegetables and meat. The dhalpuri wrap is not something that is common in England and if you do find it, it is usually rather expensive. Instead, it is worth trying whole-wheat wraps as an alternative. Therefore, while you are in search of the real thing, why not look up alternatives on Google, and you never know, it might just be under a different name. As mentioned before, when you do locate the ingredient or food product you are searching for make sure to compare the prices, because it will often cost more in the UK than it does in the country it originated from.
Part of the educational experience of being an international student is learning how to adapt, an important skill to have in today’s ever changing and developing world. So instead of giving into defeat over an absent ingredient, adjust the recipe, use something you haven’t before and be a little adventurous. You never know, you might end up cooking a masterpiece.