Students get a taste of India

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A line of hungry students stretched halfway around the Center for Global Citizenship auditorium on Feb. 2 at the Taste of India, sponsored by the Office of International Services.  The Cultural Taste series features a different country each month and gives students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn firsthand about the cultures of SLU’s many international students, through food, music and other activities. The dishes featured at the event came from Signature India, a new restaurant in Ballwin, Mo., praised for the authenticity of its food.

“It was really a taste of what it’s like to be in India,” said Silpa Bageeda, a Master’s student in the nutrition program from Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh in southern India.

Bageeda had a hand in organizing the event and was impressed with the high turnout. “I was worried that it might be too spicy for some people,” she said. “But all the comments I got were about how good the food was.”

Bageeda, along with other Indian students, served three dishes at the event: chicken manchurian, a typical Indian street food which originated in China; bisi bele bath, a vegetarian dish popular in Karnataka; and kheema biryani, made with minced goat meat, a specialty of Hyderabad. Two large bowls at the end of the buffet held typical Indian sauces, one a curry sauce and the other a yogurt-based sauce with chopped vegetables. Chai tea with milk rounded out the meal. From a nutritional perspective, the various spices in Indian food all have medicinal purposes. Cumin, for example, aids with digestion. Those looking to find an Indian restaurant in St. Louis might have to drive 10 to 15 minutes west, but a small restaurant downtown named Mr. Currys is gaining fame among students for its low prices and quality food.

Besides the food, Taste of India also featured a green screen for photo opportunities with famous Indian scenery and a henna tattoo station. Henna tattoos are non-permanent and made with the dye from the plant of the same name. Women in India sport henna tattoos at every major festival, as well as weddings. It is believed that henna tattoos pull off bodily heat, Bageeda explained.

The success of the Taste of India event is evidence that the Cultural Taste series is gaining popularity. However, the events are more than just the food.

Scott Fetters, an International Counselor in the Office of International Services, admitted that the free food is the main draw. “But I’ve also seen friendships develop because of these events and doors open between people that wouldn’t have otherwise,” Fetters said.