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More Chinese Food, More Authentically Prepared

BU adjusts menu for swelling Chinese student body

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Trying to stem an outsized flow of Chinese students to off-campus housing, the University is adding 15 Chinese dishes to its monthly residential dining menus. More than that, cooks are altering food preparation methods for a more authentically Asian taste.

The new items (find a full list at the end of this story) will be served at three residential dining halls: Marciano Commons, Warren Towers, and West Campus, says Christopher Bee, Dining Services executive chef.

With students from China flooding to BU and campuses nationwide, the changes are part of ongoing University research into a conundrum: while 75 percent of American and non-Chinese international students return to campus housing their sophomore year, fewer than half of Chinese students do, according to Marc Robillard, executive director of housing and dining.

A survey of roughly 100 Chinese students, most of them undergraduates, uncovered one clue: “We saw that dining is an extremely important item,” Robillard says. “It’s a menu issue, certainly, but it’s also a preparation issue. We can think something is authentic, but it can be way off. It has to be prepared the right way.”

“Western Asian food focuses on meat, with vegetables and/or rice as side dishes,” explains Bee. “Authentic Asian preparation focuses on vegetables, rice, and noodles, with meats and seafood as a protein source and flavoring,” layered in a dish together rather than on the side. Also, while American Asian food is mainly fried, “traditional methods, such as stewing, braising, baking, steaming, and boiling are our current direction at BU,” says Bee.

No detail is too small. “It’s as simple as water,” says Robillard. “Chinese students don’t drink cold water. They drink warm water. They believe warm water is healthy.” So BU is now adding warm water dispensers (in addition to those already available for tea) for students seeking a glass of water to wash down their meal, Bee says.

Dining Services got a jump on this month’s menu changes last week, when in observance of the Chinese New Year a more authentic menu was presented than last year’s. The research is continuing as the University quantifies which lifestyle factors are the most important to Chinese students. But “why wait for the quantitative?” Robillard says. “Certainly the menu is something that’s easier to do than other things.”

Other schools agree. Food service company Aramark, which operates at more than 600 North American colleges, universities, and prep schools, including BU, has polled students of all backgrounds at its colleges and universities, and 44 percent asked for more Chinese menu options, says spokeswoman Kelly Banaszak. (More than a fifth requested Thai food.) In response, “we have added additional Asian-inspired meal selections and sides,” Banaszak says.

The new 15:

  • Steamed Orange White Fish with Baby Bok Choy and Rice Noodles
  • Grilled Hoisin BBQ Spare Ribs with Fried Rice and Ginger Snap Peas
  • Soy Caramel Beef Lettuce Wrap, Glass Noodle Salad
  • Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Scallops
  • Sichuan Chili Chicken and Eggplant, Sticky Rice
  • Braised Farm Chicken with Forest Mushrooms, Sesame Udon Noodles
  • Chicken and Shrimp with Pak Choy, Lo Mein
  • Wu Xi Braised Pork with Chinese Cabbage and Sticky Rice
  • Braised Pork with Bamboo Shoots and Carrots, Chinese Egg Noodles
  • Pho Chicken Bowl, Ramen Noodles
  • Garlic Shrimp Noodle Bowl, Ramen Noodles
  • Black Mushroom and Marinated Bean Curd, Ramen Noodles
  • Beef and Oyster Sauce, Sticky Rice
  • Buddhist Delight with Red Bean Paste, Rice
  • Sesame Udon Noodle with Gai Lan and Crispy Tofu
23 Comments
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

23 Comments on More Chinese Food, More Authentically Prepared

  • Adlai on 02.04.2014 at 8:37 am

    “Authentic Asian preparation focuses on vegetables, rice, and noodles, with meats and seafood as a protein source and flavoring”

    Americans should take some advice from of the Chinese – perhaps if steamed vegetables rather than fried meat was more of a focus we would be a healthier society.

  • Student on 02.04.2014 at 9:59 am

    Ok this actually kinda aggravates me. If you choose to go to college in America, you choose to deal with our customs as Americans. I’m all about diversity on campus and that the USA is a melting pot………. But this is different. This isn’t welcoming everyone to celebrate the USA… This is directly changing what is served in our dining halls to cater to an overwhelming population of Chinese students. Most of which don’t event speak English to any other students when they aren’t in class, and make no attempt to fit in with the American students. I think it’s wrong. This doesn’t promote cultural fusion…or maybe it does and it’s just how the article is written and I’m taking it the wrong way (though I don’t think that is the case). I understand that American food is still being served and that the Chinese food will most likely be enjoyed by everyone…. It’s just the idea behind this that rubs me the wrong way. I wouldn’t go to china and expect them to start preparing macaroni and hot dogs in the dining halls. Isn’t the point of studying in another country… to experience another culture??

    • Other student on 02.04.2014 at 11:39 am

      The point of this menu change is to keep these Chinese students in on campus housing and dining plans. International students tend to come from wealthy families (otherwise they wouldn’t be able to go to school here) and BU is losing potential revenue when they decide to live off campus where they can cook their own traditional Chinese dishes. Also, most of the food in the dining halls are based on other cultures. Otherwise, we’d just be eating hot dogs every day.

    • Different Student on 02.04.2014 at 11:51 am

      Oh, please. Just because they’re adding more authentic Chinese food to the menu doesn’t mean that they’re not assimilating. This is a decision by BU to make more money by encouraging foreign students to remain on campus.

    • Student02 on 02.04.2014 at 12:17 pm

      I feel like that you were a bit harsh attacking the Chinese students and how they don’t communicate with any American students. When I studied abroad in China I stayed within my small international bubble as well. None of my friends made an effort to get to know any local Chinese people. The dining hall there served American food as well such as burgers and etc. It’s just about making foreign students feeling comfortable when they are in a foreign country.

      I do understand your point though, but at least everyone will enjoy the food in all of our dining halls right?

    • ts on 02.04.2014 at 2:39 pm

      by moving to off-campus housing, isn’t a big part of “experience another culture”, i.e. US-style dorm life, lost? During my 2 years at ENG grad school I don’t recall any non-Chinese tenant in my friends’ off-campus places. To me it’s more like that BU is trying to keep students in on-campus housing and encourage cultural fusion by easing the sharp contrast between cultures.

    • Priscilla Ballou on 02.04.2014 at 5:10 pm

      While the motivation may be to encourage Asian students to live on campus, this benefits all BU students. Who doesn’t want a diverse menu with fine tasting dishes available? I wish there had been authentic Chinese dishes to eat in the dining hall when I went to college (a long time ago and not at BU). We thought getting yoghurt was a serious triumph!

      I am not of Asian ancestry, but I eat Asian food all the time because I like it. Those aren’t all Chinese dishes, though. Isn’t pho Vietnamese? I hope we’re not lumping Asians together. The cuisines can be distinct, and China has multiple cuisines within it. OK. Now I’m hungry! Well done, Dining Services!

      • Kitty on 02.04.2014 at 11:21 pm

        ^I agree. And oh yeah Student, ever thought of approaching them instead of antagonizing them? I bet you five dollars you’re gonna be eating off that Asian menu.

  • Junior on 02.04.2014 at 1:24 pm

    I know BU wants to accommodate them so that they will stay on campus and BU can get their money but its possible the price of on campus living is also a deterrent. Plus if you go to a new country you shouldn’t expect them to accommodate you with things you are used to, you should try new things and embrace the new culture around you. I didn’t go to paris and expect to eat burgers and fries.I ate croissants and baguettes because that’s why you go to other countries.

    • student on 02.04.2014 at 7:11 pm

      Well, yes, but it’s not like Chinese student doesn’t embrace U.S. culture or they “expect” U.S. colleges to accomodate them, from what I see it’s BU’s decision no? If they choose to accomodate Chinese student it’s their decision, Chinese students are not the ones to be blamed. (actually I don’t really see what’s the big deal anyway, it’s not like that because more Chinsese food come in there would be less “American food”)

    • E on 02.04.2014 at 7:48 pm

      American food to French food isn’t really a big jump. However, traditional Asian food to American food is. That being said, of course they had to try the American food (freshman year mandatory on campus housing) and probably didn’t enjoy it. That along with the housing costs, as you mentioned, is probably why they move off campus.

  • Sophomore on 02.04.2014 at 1:57 pm

    This is really just BU decision. If you have to say BU accommodates Chinese students, then the blame inevitability falls onto them. They came here bearing no expectation of welcoming(judging from some comments above) or familiarity. They KNOW what they are signed up for. I guess some comments are being harsh and targeting the wrong subject.

    • Kitty on 02.04.2014 at 11:24 pm

      ^Yup.

  • Jack on 02.04.2014 at 5:04 pm

    It’s great!

  • Phyllis on 02.04.2014 at 5:56 pm

    I am from Beijing, China. The sad thing about this news is that none of the new added food item I have eaten or even heard of when I was in China…It is still American- Chinese food.

    • Priscilla Ballou on 02.04.2014 at 9:32 pm

      Phyllis, maybe they’re from a different part of China? What region of China do you come from? What are some foods from home you wish you could get in the dining hall? My father (who is not Chinese) grew up in northern China and made sure my sister and I got lots of foods he remembered and loved as we grew up. I know I’d love to see some steamed bread (man t’ou?) and red cooked meat on the menu.

      • Priscilla Ballou on 02.04.2014 at 9:33 pm

        Sorry, Phyllis. I totally blanked on your having said you’re from Beijing. My father spent a lot of his youth in Beijing.

  • BU Alum on 02.04.2014 at 8:32 pm

    My favorite thing about going to BU was the multicultural environment. As a white guy from North Carolina, it thought it was a lot of fun to get to know people from different cultures and to experience a more diverse cuisine than I was used to. You guys are really lucky to have the option of trying more authentic food.

    @”Student” – In my experience, a lot of Chinese immigrants can be a bit shy… especially towards Americans. I’ve found that if you make an effort to get to know them, you’ll find that most are really talkative and friendly. Instead of criticizing people who instinctively gravitate towards what they’re familiar with, why don’t we make more of an effort to get to know them and understand the cultural differences? It’s way more fun that way.

    • Kitty on 02.04.2014 at 11:19 pm

      I agree. We always expect the minority to come to us but maybe as Americans were the majority maybe we can welcome and put the effort to be friends with them instead?

  • Kitty on 02.04.2014 at 11:18 pm

    Why are you people complaining about food…? Now you just have another variety of food added to the menu!

  • sylvan on 02.05.2014 at 12:18 am

    alright so you make the point about “traditional Asian” dishes being less meat-focused than “Western Asian” dishes, and then 13/15 of the new recipes appear to be meat-focused? Please explain what you mean by this.

  • Leo on 02.10.2014 at 7:28 pm

    it’s funny people are so sensitive. It’s just food, please.

  • John on 05.17.2014 at 12:03 pm

    Kudos to Christopher Bee! Being a foodie born and raised in China, but living here for the past seven decades, I am glad to see this change. Italian food is accepted here without another thought–and so is some “Jewish” deli food. It is high time that students be introduced to “real” Chinese food — which is a healthier, and to my mind,tastier diet. One suggestion: Instead of combining various dishes into one serving, Mr. Bee might consider following the lead of Chinese self-serv restaurants found in various parts of China, and let the student/clientele pick and choose what combination suits them. You can check it out at Mings supermarket on Washington St. in the South End where one can pick 3 items from some 20 choices to go with rice and soup for $6.50.

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