Wednesday, Nov. 29, the International Mini Market partnered with the Center for Student Diversity and a wide array of cultural organizations to present the College of William and Mary’s second ever International Mini Market Banquet. For a ticket price of five dollars, attendees were given the opportunity to sample food from across the globe at the convenience of the College’s own campus.
While the banquet only featured cuisine from the South Asian Student Association and Latin American Student Association during its initial debut in Spring 2023, the savory selection has spread to include dishes from eight multicultural organizations: the African Cultural Society, the Filipino American Student Association, the Japanese American Student Association, the Chinese Student Organization, the Vietnamese Student Association and the Taiwanese American Student Association.
This jump in the supply of multicultural cuisine for the event was met with an even bigger boost in demand, which was evidenced by the fact that the entryway doors were shut just one hour after they were opened. The line to enter Chesapeake B/C in the Sadler Center still wrapped all the way around Sadler Center’s third floor, and the food pans were emptied out at a rate that was faster than the incoming footsteps.
VSA Culture Chair Prestin Tran ’26 expressed his club’s contentment with the growth.
“We didn’t necessarily have many expectations, and we were just blown away by how many people are interested in trying various multicultural cuisines,” Tran said. “In our books, we’d call it a success if we have people from different backgrounds being able to taste this cuisine.”
SASA worked with Spice Palace to serve goat and veggie biryani, which are variations of a mixed rice dish, in addition to steam-filled dumplings called momos. Simultaneously, JASA introduced passersby to Japanese-inspired Western confectionary cakes known as yougashi, which were catered by Williams O’Delicious LLC, located in Hampton Roads. These included ocha cakes with anko sweet red bean paste and matcha green tea flavors, as well as a Mont Blanc cake that was marked by its chestnut puree topping.
If these selections did not already make one’s mouth water, ACS served sweet and spicy chunks of fried plantains called kelewele and tomato-based jollof rice. According to the group’s food poster, kelewele is a word derived from the Ga language and refers to the sound plantains make during the frying process. The dish is most often served at night or in the afternoon by vendors as an entree, side dish or even sometimes as just a snack. Jollof comes from the ancient kingdom of Wolof, now Senegal, but it is eaten in many countries, including Cameroon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana.
Meanwhile, FASA brought chicken adobo from Susan’s Kitchenette, located in Virginia Beach. According to FASA Vice President Myra Simbulan ’25, adobo is made with spices like basil and is simmered in a tangy sauce, and it originates from the Batangas region of the Philippines. As for the word itself, adobo comes from the Spanish word adobar, which means “to marinate.” Simbulan shared another fun fact relating to the vinegar content of the dish.
“Before fridges were made, since the dish’s made with salt and vinegar, they actually had this dish unrefrigerated back then because it was preserved through the vinegar,” Simbulan said.
Simbulan also spoke on the power of food for bringing people together and creating lasting memories. She reminisced about how adobo will always remind her of the connections she has made through her club.
“We have Friendsgiving, and the family that I’m in actually made adobo one year, my freshman year,” Simbulan said. “It was super fun, so I always associate cooking it [with that] because it was my first time personally cooking it.”
CSO shared chicken and vegetarian lo mein, which CSO Vice President Elise Tsao ’25 translated to “stirred noodles.” The club’s advertising poster described that lo mein, a staple of many Chinese restaurants, symbolizes longevity and is typically served at birthdays and Chinese New Year. This dish was catered to the event by Peter Chang on Richmond Road, which Tsao encouraged fellow students to try out in order to support the presence of Chinese eateries in the local area.
Similarly catered from Peter Chang’s, TASA offered attendees mapo tofu. According to the club’s food poster, this dish originated in the Chengdu region in the 1800’s, when it was invented by an elderly lady named Mrs. Chen, who during her time was incidentally able to be recognized by her smallpox scars. Hence, the word ma refers to pockmarks, and the word po means older woman.
TASA Historian Cheyenne Hwang ’25 looks to the future of the International Mini Market with hope, as she emphasized how crucial food is for making a person feel at home.
“I would just love to see these types of events continue, just because I feel like food is a big aspect of what people think of when they think of home and homesickness, so being able to connect to home, through food, and bring that here, is really important,” Hwang said.
Nearby, VSA gave out goi cuon spring rolls catered locally from Chopsticks Pho and Grill on John Tyler Hwy. While the delicacy is eaten all across Vietnam, Tran delineated that what it is called and how it is spelled can vary depending on the region of Vietnam. The dish is made of any type of protein, typically pork or shrimp, that is blanched, seasoned in water, cooked, then sliced before being wrapped up in rice paper along with rice noodles, lettuce and other herbs.
“Typically, they entail wealth, because they look like golden ingots,” Tran said. “Clearly, they’re transparent and not golden, but because they’re ingot-shaped, they’re like a slab.”
Tran identified food as a significant part of his identity as a Vietnamese American living in Virginia. He explained that there is now a great Vietnamese presence in Northern Virginia, which can be traced back to the diaspora that immigrated to the United States during and after the Vietnam War. Throughout his time in the States, he grew up frequenting many Vietnamese-owned businesses that have shaped his food tastes to this day.
“In Northern Virginia, there’s this place called Eden Center, and it’s a large conglomeration of a lot of Vietnamese-American-owned businesses,” Tran said. “Most of these are restaurants, because when a lot of the immigrants came over, what they knew how to do was cooking. So a lot of the businesses I was surrounded by that were Vietnamese were restaurants, and that’s where I gained my taste for Vietnamese cuisine, and that’s also why it plays a huge role in my life and other Vietnamese-American lives.”
However, Tran explained how this form of culinary representation has not really transferred to the Williamsburg area yet, and to this point, counted that there are no Vietnamese restaurants within walking distance of the College’s campus and at most two within driving distance. For this reason, VSA has partnered with the International Mini Market to offer accessibility through the banquet.
“You can count that on one hand, it’s just two Vietnamese restaurants,” Tran said. “What we want to do is we want to bring the flavors of Vietnam into Williamsburg and have students and people in Williamsburg themselves who haven’t necessarily had much of a taste of Vietnamese cuisine have the ability to have the taste and the Vietnamese cuisine.”
Additionally, LASU laid out Cuban sandwiches called cubanos as well as a rice pudding dessert made of rice, milk, sugar and cinnamon called arroz con leche. Steven Henriquez Talavera ’27 reasoned that both options require relatively little ingredients or effort, making them not only cost-effective and time-efficient but mouth-watering as well.
“It’s very significant because a lot of cultural foods have to do with economics and cost effective-wise, what can we do with what little we have to make ends meet and to at least put food on the table,” Talavera said. “That’s why a lot of these dishes, while simple, are very effective in creating a nostalgic effect.”
A more personal aspect of food in Hispanic culture is its persistence across all stages of one’s life and through memories of the young and old alike.
“Some families make their own specific rite of passages in life,” Talavera said. “Especially at a quinceañera, they would make more fancy foods, so food has played a significant role in culture, age acquisition, language acquisition, language integration and all that.”
Talavera reflected on how he hopes the International Mini Market Banquet marks a step forward in communication, collaboration and appreciation across ethnic groups on campus, and as to what the future holds, he simply says that he looks forward to sharing more.
“We’re not trying to not assimilate; we want to still be ourselves within this country,” Talavera said. “So being at these events, the purpose of it is to distribute food, to distribute a part of ourselves to people to let them acknowledge us, to have our own acknowledgment, and we’re able to tell them we’re here, and we want to work with you, and we want to share what we have with you.”