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Students compete in exotic food-tasting competition


CMU student participants compete in a food-eating contest at the Extreme Cuisine Showcase hosted by the Asian Cultural Organization on Thursday, April 6 in the Kulhavi classrooms. 

Students challenged their taste-buds while learning about the essence of different cultures at the Extreme Cuisine eating competition on Thursday, April 6.

Nearly 100 students gathered in room 141 and 142 of Kulhavi Hall room 141 and 142 to watch 15 competitors eat exotic foods from various Asian and Pacific Islander countries. The Asian Cultural Organization has been hosting Extreme Cuisine for seven years, and aims raise cultural awareness by presenting dishes that not common in the U.S.

“Although they seem extreme here, these are foods many of us grew up eating,” said sophomore Tiffany Nguyen, the MC for Extreme Cuisine.

Presenting “out-there” foods that are not seen in America is a way to show how unique different cultures are, Nguyen said.

“It’s showing how something that is weird for someone is normal for someone else”, she said.

Contestants sat along a table in front the audience. Powerpoint slides showing where the cuisine was from and how they were made were shown as the dishes were served.

There were three rounds during the two-hour competition. Competitors had to finish all the food on their plates and show the inside of their mouths to prove they were complete.

Every dish featured in the rounds had a new flavor experience for the competitors and educated the audience about the different cultures.

Participants ate unusual foods such as salted duck eggs, a dish where the inside layer of the egg shell is preserved in brine for 30-50 days. Then, the eggs get packed into damp salted charcoal paste and boiled.

Dorian, a tropical fruit found in Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia with a spiky shell and potent smell, was featured at the event.

In the last round, the final two participants were served balut, which generated the largest reaction from the audience.

Balut is a 16 to 21-days-old fertilized broiled egg that contains a semi-developed duck embryo. It is one of the Philippines most iconic delicacies.

Xavier-Thomas Mendoza, Extreme Cuisine competitor had no hesitation eating the dish. He took his time because as a student from the Philippines, Balut is staple of his childhood.

“The Balut is a Phillipino street food that I used to eat with my family,” Mendoza said. “I just wanted to enjoy it.”

Vietnamese student Hung Tran won the eating competition. He said food is an excellent representation of culture.

“In every region, there is a specific kind of crop, farm animals and spices.” Tran said. “What we eat represents the land itself.”

Audience member and sociology major Naja Malone said Extreme Cuisine was an educational experience.

“There are so many different things that make different cultures unique,” Malone said. “(Extreme Cuisine) allows people to reflect on their culture, learn from other cultures and see that their culture isn’t the only culture out there.”