Sitting in the common area of Colorado State University’s International House, criminology major from Ghana nostalgically described the West-African cuisine that he had not eaten since before his arrival to the United States.
Though reluctant to complain about the new foods he had tried in the U.S., Yaw Dapaah described the lack of culturally diverse and authentic food on campus.
“CSU has a huge amount of African students,” Dapaah said. “It would be good if there were more variety in food.”
Other students, like Abdullah Almutairi, a chemical engineering major from Kuwait, agree that for a university that prides itself in diversity and inclusion, there should be a more globalist approach toward food.
“There really should be more restaurants and choices for international students,” Almutairi said.
The university has made strides to provide dining options that reflect varying cultural backgrounds, but many international students are still looking to local restaurants to get an authentic taste of the foods they grew up with.
From Mediterranean to Thai and Chinese, West Elizabeth Street is home to many restaurants that international students say are the real deal.
Isabella Zhu, a senior agricultural business major from China frequents Hot Wok Café, one of only two restaurants in Fort Collins she was willing to label as authentic Chinese food.
“I like the fried rice, the noodles,” Zhu said. “And the fried chicken is really good—it tastes like real Chinese.”
Without leaving campus, it can be difficult finding ethnic food that is not a caricaturized version of its original rendition.
“CSU has a lot of just American food,” said Zhu. “Panda Express is not Chinese food,” though she admitted to settling for it occasionally while on campus.
Almutairi said he has not found any Kuwaiti food in Fort Collins, but Mediterranean restaurants are a good enough substitution for now.
“Petra Grill and Fatafeat are pretty similar to Kuwaiti food,” he said. “They’re really the closest thing.”
If he could have any food from home, Almutairi would take a traditional Arabic dish called majboos, a rice and chicken dish, “cooked Kuwaiti style,” he said.
In terms of cultural variety, most international students agree that the dining halls tend to be better than the food court.
“The chicken and the pasta in the dining halls are the closest thing to West-African food at the school,” Dapaah said.
Still, he has not been able to find a taste of home on West Elizabeth Street or on campus. As West-African cuisine has yet to gain traction in the U.S., Dapaah said he would even settle for a Westernized version of it.
Fast-food chains like Panda Express and Garbanzo Express have Westernized food of other regions of the world. “If there were an African version, it would be great,” Dapaah said.
Particularly, he would like to get his hands on a popular West-African dish called Waakye, which he described as “brown rice, pinto beans and chicken in a really good, spicy sauce.” Nothing he has tried in the U.S. yet has been comparable.
Dapaah hopes to see more African food merge into American culture, and would also like to see more choices for international students at CSU because “it would help to make international students feel at home.”