Taste of Asia brings flavor, culture to IMU

CAB will present the Taste of Asia event Friday at 9 p.m., to allow students to experience asian foods and culture for free.


Jenna Galligan

Members of the Asian American Student Union prepare Ché Thài for Taste of Asia in the IMU kitchen on Thursday, April 11, 2019. The event will take place in the IMU Main Lounge on April 12, 2019 at 9:00 pm.

Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

For University of Iowa students and others of the community who seek to expand their cultural horizons, the Campus Activities Board will provide an opportunity to sample a taste of Asian cultures.

CAB will host the free Taste of Asia event at 9 p.m. today at the IMU. While the event is annual, this year will bring a much larger quantity and more variety of cuisines. The event will last from 9 p.m. to midnight and is free for everyone.

CAB member Mishma Nixon, a UI freshman who is in charge of Taste of Asia this year, has dedicated herself to provide as much representation for all the diverse cultures of Asia.

“It’s going to be a lot of Asian food, and it’s an effort to bring about and celebrate Asian culture and how diverse the culture is,” she said. “There are so many different countries and so many different regions in the continent. There are students from almost every region, so it’s a way of representing them through food because food is a very integral part of all cultures.”

Taste of Asia will offer food from four regions: East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

“Asia is a huge continent, and it’s easy to get sidetracked and focus on the main few counties,” Nixon said. “Breaking it into four regions definitely helped me focus in more; I knew for sure that section had to look full, which meant I had to go search for more food from that region. I really tried to be as authentic as possible. Every single food item has a rich history, has a tradition.”

After eating, guests will be able to watch various group performances, visit the henna table, or get their name printed in Arabic calligraphy.

Taste of Asia will cater food from Asian restaurants in Iowa City and Coralville.

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UI junior Idries Kysia, the president of the Arab Student Association, said it is empowering to be connected with the community through the event.

“Our organization supports and facilitates the discussion and furthers awareness of Arab culture, issues, language,” he said. “We’re primarily doing cooking. We’re cooking a traditional Arabic cuisine, grape leaves. Basically, we wrap a filling of rice and meat, traditionally. This semester, there’s been a lot of cross-culture organization outreach, and it really does feel like there is a bigger cultural campus growing.”

Nixon said that, as an international student, she misses food from home.

“Even if we are not from that country, we all miss food from home. I know it sounds cliché, but there’s something about Asian food that is just amazing,” she said. “It’s cooked with love. I’m even making all my members eat before they serve so that they can serve with love.”

Nixon said she wanted to tap into as many countries as possible to make underrepresented Asian communities feel welcome.

“I really hope that people can see things that they miss from home,” she said. “I really hope that someone who always thought that their country is not represented in events comes to this event and sees their culture represented. If that could happen to one person, then I think I would have done my job.”

CAB member AJ King, who was involved with Taste of Asia last year, said this year the event is significantly larger.

“We’ve been being a little more intersectional and a little more cognizant of other identities,” he said. “I’m from the Philippines and southeast Asia, so I felt some communion with the Asian population that showed up to the event [last year], but there are so many specific things from your own country, and not having my country there kind of hurt.”

In addition to vegan and gluten-free options, Taste of Asia will offer Halal food, which is prepared in accordance with Islamic law.

“There are a lot of Muslims in the Asian community here, and I thought that it would be great thing to have food that they could eat,” Nixon said. “In those communities, we try to be as inclusive as possible, which is a bit of a challenge, but it worked out.”

Many restaurants offered discounted or free food for Taste of Asia.

“I told them what I wanted to do with this and why it means so much to me, and I think they just got it,” Nixon said. “I was so proud of my skills as a negotiator. I hope students will go out and visit these places after.”