Indian Cultural Association hosts Rasoi on West Mall

Faith Ann Ruszkowski

Tempted by the smells of pakora, naan and samosas, Indian and non-Indian students alike gobbled down South Asian cuisine sold by the UT Indian Cultural Association on the West Mall on Wednesday.

The Indian Cultural Association sells traditional Indian dishes every month for a fundraiser called Rasoi, which translates to “kitchen.” Rasoi is one of the only opportunities for students to eat authentic Indian food near campus, ICA members said. There are only three restaurants specializing in Indian cuisine in the campus vicinity, yet 17.2 percent of the nearly 50,000 students enrolled in 2015 were of Asian descent, which includes the Indian subcontinent. This makes the number of places to eat Indian food relatively scarce in proportion to the UT Asian population.

Consequently, Suruchi Avasthi, marketing senior and ICA’s secretary, said she usually ends up cooking her own meals if she wants Indian food.

“We don’t really go out to eat Indian food,” Avasthi said.

Avasthi said Rasoi is a way to make Indian food, and by extension Indian culture, more accessible around campus.

“I didn’t grow up in an Indian community,” Avasthi said. “Doing this as part of ICA is a way for me to connect with other Indians and share my culture with other members of the UT community.”

ICA president Atisha Patel said cuisine is one of the easiest ways to connect across cultures on campus because everyone can appreciate good food.

“This is an homage to our culture,” Patel said. “Our heritage is about big flavors and food.”

If the goal is connecting across cultures, the diverse number of customers on Wednesday illustrates the cross-cultural appeal of Indian food. Some students, such as computer science freshman Natasha Solanki, who is from an Indian household, came because it reminds them of the food they grew up with, while other non-Indian students came because they enjoy learning about a culture other than their own.

Shad Bell, who works at an international missionary group called Every Nation, came to Rasoi because his job has exposed him to a variety of cultures and broadened his palate, while Rachel Dorn, a graduate research fellow, joined ICA because of her interest in the South Asian culture.

For ICA, bridging cultural divides is possible through selling one samosa at a time to a student population that is hungry for more Indian food on campus.