College Kitchen: A taste of home

International students share their favorite foods.

Lucy Nieboer

For an international student at the University of Minnesota, getting a home-cooked meal isn’t as simple as receiving a care package or taking a weekend trip home.

Many students who choose the University as their study abroad destination are unable to return home during their stays, and if they crave the taste of the dishes they grew up eating, they have to learn to cook for themselves.

The College Kitchen hosted three guest chefs and learned how to cook three dishes that may seem exotic to some but to others simply taste like home.


Yujian’s Braised Beef and Potatoes

Yujian Yang, an accounting and marketing senior, visits his hometown of Chengdu, China once a year.

“Food is the biggest part of my trip schedule,” he said.

Chengu is a part of the Sichuan region of China. The area is famous for its food, known around the world for its signature spice. This dish is a bit milder than other Szechuan fare, and Yang can easily find all the ingredients in American grocery stores.

This simple dish has been a weeknight standby for Yang’s family since childhood.

“Every time my mom couldn’t think of anything to eat, she’d make this for me,” he said.


1 pound beef tenderloin

2 tomatoes

3 potatoes

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 dash cooking wine

1-2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper

1-2 teaspoons salt



To begin, peel the tomatoes and potatoes. Chop them into bite-sized pieces. Cut the beef into small cubes. Place the beef into a wok, and cover in cold water. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the beef from the wok, and drain the water. Set aside the cooked meat. Heat half the oil in the wok. Stir-fry the potatoes in the wok until tender. Remove the potatoes from the wok. Add more oil to the wok. Add the tomatoes to the hot oil. When the water has mostly evaporated from the cooked tomatoes, add a dash of cooking wine. Add the drained beef to the tomatoes. Stir-fry the mixture. Cover the wok. Simmer covered for about one hour. Add the potatoes, salt, sugar and pepper. Boil the mixture. Reduce heat and simmer again for 20 minutes. Serve over rice.


Sneha’s Shahi Paneer

Sneha Raghavan, a public health graduate student, is only able to Skype her family back in Bangalore, India once a week. She staves off homesickness by cooking traditional dishes she learned from her mother and aunt.

Although she never cooked before coming to Minnesota, Raghavan soon began to miss the spice of Indian food and tried her culinary hand.

Luckily, Raghavan was a naturally talented chef, and now her food is the favorite of her roommates, who cook for each other on a rotating basis.

“What makes me love cooking is when my roommates ask me for a dish,” she said. “When it’s my cooking turn in the morning, they’ll say, ‘Sneha, we want to eat this.’ It makes me feel how like my mother feels when I ask her.”


2 cups paneer (cut into 1-inch cubes)

1 teaspoon tumeric

4 tomatoes

1 big white onion

4 cloves garlic

2 small pieces cinnamon

1 small piece ginger

1 tablespoon coriander

1 handful cashews and almonds

1 tablespoon chili powder

4 cloves



2 anise pieces

3 bay leaves

1 pinch cardamum

2 green chilies

1 tablespoon cumin

1 pinch garam masala

1/4 cup milk


To begin, heat a dash of oil in a nonstick skillet. Fry the paneer (which can be purchased in large blocks at Indian grocery stores), and add the tumeric. Cook until lightly browned on edges. Set aside. In a blender, thoroughly blend the tomatoes, onion, garlic, one piece of cinnamon, ginger, coriander, nuts, chili powder and cloves. Add some water if the sauce is too dense (it should be thicker than water but thinner than yogurt). In another skillet, heat another dash of oil. To awaken the flavor in the spices, fry the anise, cardamum, cinnamon, bay leaves and chilies for a couple minutes in the oil. Add the sauce from the blender. Stir in cumin and garam masala. Stir in the milk. Let cook covered over low heat for at least 15 minutes. Add the paneer to the pan with the sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes. Serve with the Indian bread roti (also available at Indian grocery stores).


Jade’s Boeuf Bourguignon

Jade Molinier, a graduate student from Montpellier, France, never technically learned how to cook boeuf bourguignon. She watched her father make it so many times that she memorized the recipe without even trying.

Molinier explained that this simple stew works well for college students for the same reasons that it did for the farmers who originally made it in the French countryside: “They had to have things that were easy to cook, that were cheap and that would use the products that they had,” she said.


3 fatty beef steaks

1 bottle dry red wine

2 big potatoes

1/4 onion

3-4 large carrots

1 teaspoon curry

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2-3 cloves

1 big spoon flour




Cut the meat and vegetables into small, even, bite-sized pieces. Put all the pieces, except the potatoes, into a large pot. Pour in the entire bottle of wine. Add the curry, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Let this mixture marinate overnight. The next day, cook the mix on the stove over low heat for one hour. Add the potatoes and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the flour, and stir right away to avoid clumps. Stir for about five minutes or until the sauce thickens. Serve with red wine. Bon appétit.