Students sizzle at ‘Kung Food Fight’

Competitors had a $20 budget and one hour to prepare Asian-themed dishes for a panel.

by Amber Schadewald

Shrimp danced in the pan, carrots were cut into flowers and the aroma of traditional Vietnamese cooking filled the air during the Asian Student Union’s “Kung Food Fight.”

The cooking competition was held Saturday in Yudof Hall and featured three teams of four students that battled to prepare the best Asian-themed dishes.

Members of the Hmong Minnesota Student Association ended up with first prize, but all involved had a chance to test out their cooking skills.

Each team was given a $20 budget for ingredients from the student group, but they were responsible for bringing their own cooking utensils and tableware.

The teams had one hour to prepare their dishes and presented their finished products to the group’s board members to be judged.

Christopher Oudavanh, a marketing and finance junior and vice president of the group, said the event was meant to be a fun and educational way for students to experience Asian cooking.

University first-year Irene Tran was part of team “What the Crêpe?” that prepared “banh xeo,” which she called a Vietnamese version of the French crêpe.

Tran and her teammates started by using a premeasured banh xeo mix, consisting mostly of rice flour and turmeric, the root of a tropical plant related to ginger. Then the group added coconut milk, onions, oil, salt and water.

Lynh Vu, a biology first-year who took on the job of frying the banh xeo, then added shrimp, fresh onions and bean sprouts. The finished product was a crispy, yet chewy, sweet and spicy version of an omelet – minus the egg.

Vu and Tran’s group also made a banana pudding desert sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

During preparation, the girls raced across the kitchen, chopping, stirring, laughing and searching for ways to make use of their limited utensils.

Caroline Lochungvu, biomedical engineering first year, said she didn’t know what to expect from the event.

“I didn’t even know what we were making,” she said.

She said the hardest part of the event wasn’t the cooking, but the pressure.

Shoua Xiong, a chemical engineering first-year, said an hour would’ve been enough time to make the meal, but they got a bit of a late start.

The group also had a faulty can opener, which cost them 10 minutes when they struggled to open the coconut milk.

The team members agreed they joined the competition to hang out with each other, not necessarily to win.

“And it’s a nice break from O-chem,” Xiong said.

Florence Tran, chemical engineering senior, encouraged her sister Irene Tran to create a team. For them, the event was mostly about fun.

Florence laughed as she referred to her sister as “the one whose glasses fell into the pudding.”

The 17 judges rated the food based on taste, creativity and presentation.

Sophomore Meghan Wolner, a member of “Semper Fi,” was confident that her team’s chicken lo mein and chicken fried rice would win.

“It’s in the bag,” she said minutes before the results were announced.

Unfortunately for Wolner, Team Nojtshais, representing the Hmong Minnesota Student Association, won the competition with cabbage rolls and noodle curry soup.

The grand prize: four Chipotle burritos. The second- and third-place teams received candy canes.

Kannone Vang, a history senior and member of the winning team, said her group participated in the event in order to get more involved with other student organizations and to brush up on their cooking skills.

The group practiced Friday night, and Vang said she was very proud of the teamwork they displayed Saturday afternoon.

Oudavanh was pleased with the event’s turnout, but wished there would’ve been more teams. Due to time conflicts, two groups dropped out of the competition.

After the event was over, each team was sent back to their kitchens on dish duty.

“Great cooks are messy,” Xiong said, looking around her group’s kitchen. “Hence the mess.”