University should offer more Asian food options for students

Sunny Kim

I miss the aroma of freshly cooked white rice, smoked bulgogi and rich seaweed soup. I miss the taste of spicy kimchi fried rice, sweet galbi and nutty bibimbap. Unfortunately, none of these options are available to me on campus. Coming from a Korean background, it was difficult to change my diet to eat American food for every meal, every day. Although I have lived in Austin for as long as I can remember, I still identify with a Korean nationality, which includes Korean food, culture and language that I cherish and value.

Although American food can be good, I’m sick of the same old chicken sandwiches, bland burgers and greasy pizzas available to me on campus. Call me hard-to-please for wanting variety, but I honestly feel that the University should offer easily accessible, good-quality Asian food to address the students’ needs.

The Texas Union and Student Activity Center only offer American junk food such as Chick-Fil-A, Taco Cabana, Quiznos, Smokehouse BBQ and Wendy’s. The one exception would be food from Zen, but white rice and pieces of chicken with sauce drizzled on top shouldn’t be defined as real Asian food. Although Panda Express will come to the Union soon, the saturated orange chicken and mediocre fried rice is the prime example of Americanized Asian food. Sadly, Asian food has been altered and manipulated through fast food chains to cater towards the general American population, reducing the variety of cuisine.

Psychology freshman Michelle Tran says a greater variety of Asian food should be offered because it can be filling and healthy.

“If the University can provide all sorts of American food of differing variety and tastes and forms, why not Asian food?” Tran said. “Eating greasy burgers and fries can only be so filling for so long. Asian foods offer a variety of dishes that can be healthy, delicious and filling.”

However, this issue cannot be addressed without examining the contract between Aramark and University Unions. Aramark is a food services company that manages restaurants in the Texas Union and the Student Activity Center. It plays a large role in deciding what fast food restaurants can come to our campus.

As students, we are the real customers, and we should have a say in what types of restaurants can come to campus.

But this important food contract is only accessible by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request, which can take days, weeks or even months to return the information. This makes it harder to retrieve details about the contract in a timely manner. Additionally, a FOIA request doesn’t require agencies to do research, analyze data or create records in response to the request, which makes it difficult for an average person to understand the contents of the contract in order to draw a reasonable conclusion.
Food is more than fuel for the body. It gives us a moment where we can share our culture with one another. Good and authentic Asian food should be offered at UT, and making this happen should be a right rather than a struggle.

Kim is a journalism freshman from Austin. Follow Kim on Twitter @sunny_newsiee.