UB international students search for comfort food
Students studying far away from home seek out their favorite foods in Buffalo
Vikash Mani, a junior business major, thought the only time he’d be able to eat authentic Indian food was when he was visiting his family back home in India.
Mani didn’t know how to cook and he had a difficult time finding vegetarian and Indian food at UB.
But when a mutual friend introduced Mani to Raji Suresh, a UB alumna, Mani was able to eat his favorite foods without flying to India.
Suresh offered to cook Mani homemade Indian food to last him an entire week. He pays Suresh monthly to make him foods such as sambar rice, dosa, idli and curries so he can indulge in his favorite Indian comfort foods.
“I will tell her every Saturday which type of food I want for the week,” Mani said. “She is also a vegetarian so it is easy for the both of us.”
There are currently 5,047 international students – nearly 17 percent of the student population – representing over 50 countries at UB, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Although Mani has found a way to keep eating his favorite foods from home, other international students struggle to find the food they grew up with while in Buffalo.
Andrew Galarneau, a food editor for The Buffalo News and adjunct instructor in the journalism certificate program at UB, recommends students go to the West Side Bazaar on Grant Street in Buffalo for authentic Indian food. The West Side Bazaar is a small business incubator that allows entrepreneurs from Buffalo’s immigrant population to make and sell food and crafts from their home countries.
“Despite its name, [the vendor Exotic Japanese Foods] is an Indian dosa specialist,” Galarneau said.
Other food vendors at the West Side Bazaar include Abyssinian Ethiopian Cuisine, Pure Peru and multiple Thai stands.
Galarneau also suggested students looking for authentic Indian and Pakistani food try Spices of India on Evans Road and Delhi Chaat and Taste of India on Sheridan Drive – all not far from North Campus.
Yingxue Bai, a junior business major from China, said there are many foods from home that she misses and most of the Chinese restaurants in Buffalo don’t fulfill his appetite.
But she does find some solace at Peking Quick One. Bai and Galarneau agree it’s a standout for Chinese food.
Peking Quick One, located in Tonawanda, offers two menus to their customers. One features an “American style Chinese food” while the other features a traditional Chinese menu.
The restaurant “serves quickly and their foods are delicious,” Bai said.
Bai’s favorite dish comes off the traditional Chinese menu.
“I like shredded pork and eggplant with garlic sauce because they are sweet and sour dishes with a little spice added to it,” Bai said.
Galarneau also recommends China Star, Wok & Roll, Miss Hot Café and 80 China Café, all located on Sheridan Road, for authentic Chinese food.
When Bai wants to cook Chinese food on her own, she purchases whatever she can from local Asian markets. Ni Hoowa Supermarket, the largest and closest Chinese market to Bai, is located on Sheridan Drive.
Bai has been able to buy basic seasonings and vegetables for cooking along with Asian snacks and drinks from Ni Hoowa, as well as the new Asian section in Wegmans.
Shereen Khoo, a junior psychology major from Malaysia, also shops at Ni Hoowa and the Royal Spice Market for ingredients for her meals.
“A lot of Malaysian foods use many ingredients from China and India,” Khoo said. She is able to find what she needs at the same places Bai shops for food.
But many international students without cars don’t have an easy way to get to Ni Hoowa or other cultural food vendors, so they rely on their families.
Mahathi Gottumukkala, a sophomore economics and English major from India, doesn’t have a car, so she can’t drive to local restaurants or supermarkets.
“My aunts who live in the U.S. often send me [Indian] food,” Gottumukkala said.
She also brings food back to school with her when she returns from winter break such as pulses, single-polished rice, powders and spices.
“I miss good home cooked vegetarian Indian food,” Gottumukkala said.
Once a semester, Khoo’s mother sends her Malaysian ingredients that can’t be found in Buffalo.
Although some international students have been able to find shops and restaurants to satisfy their tastes, many still miss the meals they grew up with.
“I really miss some local foods such as asam laksa and wan tan mee,” Khoo said. “Flavors from my home country have a complexity, and its taste can’t be found here.”