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[CT spotlight] What do you eat at KAIST

December.2018 No Comment

Food is a source of nutrition and mental satisfaction, which are essential for academic performance. International students face drastic changes in cuisine when they move to foreign countries. New cuisine makes people excited at first but after the excitement wears off, an unsatisfactory diet in an unfamiliar environment might lead to malnutrition or homesickness. Noting the importance of on-campus food to international students, this article asks three international students about food at KAIST. Lai Po Yan is a pescetarian from Hong Kong. Liu Shuo is from Shanxi Province of China and abstaining from seafood and beef. Wongchuriat Napat is from Bangkok and does not eat beef. They were asked about their favorite food, their impression on Korean food, and their thoughts on food at KAIST.

1. What is your favorite food?

Lai Po Yan: Bibimbap (mixed rice with vegetables)! No, I want to cancel it. I like ganjanggejang (raw crabs marinated in soy sauce) best.

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Liu Shuo: I like tteokbokki (spicy stir-fried rice cakes) best. It doesn’t have to be Korean food? I have so many. I like all Chinese food. Ah, my favorite food is hot pot, huoguo in Chinese.

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Wongchuriat Napat: I like pasta, most of them.

2. Do you have any food in your hometown to recommend?

Liu Shuo: Because my parents are not from Shanxi province and I left the province long time ago, I do not know much about food in Shanxi province. Actually I like food in Po Yan’s hometown. Guangdong style soup is really great.

Lai Po Yan: I would recommend street food in Hong Kong. Curry fish balls, egg tarts, French toasts and pineapple buns.

Wongchuriat Napat: Pad Kra Pao (pork stir-fry with basil leaves) is my favorite. You fry minced pork with basil leaves.

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3. Where and how do you usually eat nowadays?

Liu Shuo: I usually go to Kaimaru with my classmates or roommate because it is the closest and offers more options. Once or twice a week, I leave the campus and go Gung-dong or Eoeun-dong to try some new food.

Lai Po Yan: I also go to Kaimaru with my labmates everyday. Once a week, my labmates and I go outside for lunch or dinner. Sometimes, I go to good restaurants in Bongmyeong-dong or Dunsan-dong with my friends.

Wongchuriat Napat: I usually go to the West Cafeteria and Kaimaru on weekdays. On weekends, I mostly go to Gung-dong with my Thai friends. In Gung-dong, we usually have dakgalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken) or fried chicken.

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4. What is your favorite Korean food? What is your impression of Korean food?

Lai Po Yan: My favorite is ganjanggejang and bibimbap. I think Korean food is sometimes too spicy, salty, or sweat. Because I prefer food that reflects natural taste of ingredients, bibimbap is the food that I eat most often. I also like Hanjeongsik which is not very spicy. However, sometimes, spicy food are also good.

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Liu Shuo: I have tried bulgogi (grilled beef), seafood budae jjigae (army stew), broiled eels, and dakgalbi. Tteokbokki and gimbap (seaweed rice rolls) are my favorite. Because I am in poor health now, I should not eat spicy food. I think Korean food is spicy for me.

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Wongchuriat Napat: My favorite are jjimbdak (braised chicken) and dakgalbi. When I came to Korea, the first impression was that Korean food is very blend. I think the reason for the impression is that I only tried food in campus cafeterias. After I visited restaurants in Seoul and Gung-dong, I changed my mind. If campus food is not count, I think Korean food is good.

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5. Are you satisfied with school cafeterias?

Liu Shuo: KAIST offers better food than the college I graduated from. Because the school is located in the center of Beijing, the campus is very small and there are only two restaurants. The menu is very limited. However, if I compare KAIST food with general Chinese food, I prefer Chinese food. I had stomachache several times in Korea because food was too spicy for me.

Lai Po Yan: I am satisfied with school cafeterias but I would like it if it becomes more customizable. I am not satisfied with excessive food packaging. Owners of restaurants give out plastic bags that I do not want and it is not environmentally friendly

Wongchuriat Napat: Not really. I would like more variety on the menu.

6. Do you have any difficulties regarding food as an international student or as a vegetarian? Do you have any suggestions to KAIST so that the school can solve the problem?

Liu Shuo: I am not allowed to eat seafood and beef as well as spicy food. Because school cafeterias usually offer combo meals, sometimes I cannot exclude seafood or beef from the menu. When I have menu containing seafood or beef, I should ask my friends to help me. In the first two months at KAIST, it was really difficult to communicate with cafeteria staffs but now I can order food by myself. If KAIST offers automated ordering systems with English menu, it will help me. In addition, I must go outside of the campus when I want to buy fruits because there is no grocery store at KAIST.

Lai Po Yan: Firstly, Korea is not very vegetarian-friendly. In the Taiwanese university I attended, school cafeterias offered vegetarian options and they clearly stated on the menu that the options were vegetarian. There are some vegetarian options in Kaimaru but they use the same cooking tools that are used for normal options. As I mentioned, I expect to see more customizable options. Removing meat from dish is not always possible and the requests are sometimes ignored.

Wongchuriat Napat:
When I arrived here, the first difficulty was that I could not read Korean. Even when there is an English menu, it is hard to know what it is. Now I can read Korean menu but sometimes I do not know what the menu contains just by reading the name. More detailed explanation should be given. In addition, I think campus food lack of vegetables. I want more vegetables.

The three students had different perspectives on Korean food. Overall, they were satisfied with Korean food as well as on-campus food. However, one thing to note is that all of them are abstaining from some ingredients. It will be more convenient for them if school cafeterias offer menus that are more customizable. Moreover, menus in cafeterias do not provide sufficient information to international students. They will benefit from more intuitive or detailed explanation about meals they will get.

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