Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Food festival at IRRI features 40 culinary delicacies from 15 countries

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—Nothing bridges cultures across the world like good food. This resonated during the annual International Food Festival held recently at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Around 40 culinary delights were prepared by IRRI scholars, trainees, scientists, and staff.

Organized by the Association of Fellows, Scholars, Trainees and Residents of IRRI (AFSTRI), the festival attracted a big crowd of food lovers within the community and outside guests on 12 August (photos).

Dishes sampled by the eager crowd came from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Vietnam. The festival also highlighted five local restaurants: Bonitos, Dal Cielo’s, Phuong’s Vietnamese Restaurant, and Bean Hub and Berris Food Services at IRRI.

The preparation for the festival provided an opportunity to have fun, be creative, and bond according to the participants. “It is very nice to see so many dishes served by representatives from different countries,” said AFSTRI President Prasad Senadheera. “The Food Festival is a very important event for us to experience and enjoy the world's different cultures.”

“While cooking, we celebrate together and we get to know each other,” shared Smita Joshi from Team India, the largest participating group who also sold the most food.

The excitement wasn’t limited to tasting exotic dishes. The festival was also a highly anticipated food competition. This year’s winners for the best dishes were Bangladesh for rice (Vuna Khichuri), China and India for vegetable (Sliced potato and onion with cumin and Bread chop, respectively), Vietnam for nonvegetable (stir-fried chicken noodles), and Indonesia for dessert (Klepon). India won the prize for the most popular food stall.

“Our team is very proud and happy to win in the best rice dish category,” said Satyen Mondal from Team Bangladesh. “We didn’t plan to get an award, but we did a lot of work together, planning for about 10 days on how to present our dish. Our objective was to make the event more festive.” The classic Vuna Khichuri is considered the ultimate comfort food for Bengalis particularly on rainy days. The ingredients for this winning entry are basmati rice, chicken, peas, and spices.

Thuong and Nhien Hieu from Team Vietnam shared the same sentiments. “We had no aspiration to win an award but we wanted to contribute to make the food festival more interesting,” they said. “We wanted everyone to have a taste of Vietnamese cuisine.”

When asked if they want to join the contest again next year, both scholars answered, “Absolutely!” Nhien Hieu was quick to add, “Hopefully, we can cook an even better dish next time.”

View 23 more photos on flickr by Isagani Serrano, IRRI. Video by Christopher Gapuz, IRRI. 

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