Students enrolled in the course ‘Indian Civilization and Society’ filed into Zhuhai Indian Kitchen restaurant on the evening of 1 November, and took in the beautiful décor, scents and smells of the buffet that was waiting for them. This off-campus cultural experience was organised by Associate Professor, Dr Nazrul Islam, in order to help the students understand Indian culture better through a hands-on learning experience.

Image10Students are excited to try the new food

Most students at the dinner had never tried Indian food before, so it was truly an eye-opening experience for them. The event began with Dr Islam welcoming students to the restaurant, and introducing the guest speaker for the evening, Prof Kuah Khun Eng, Honorary Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong.

Image2Dr Islam welcomes students to the restaurant

Image3Director of GEO, Prof Mildred Yang, and guest speaker, Prof Kuah Khun Eng enjoy the event

During Prof Kuah’s lecture, she gave a brief introduction to the history of the spice trade in India and East Asia, discussing how early use of spices was an exclusive trade, and only available to the very wealthy. She also talked about how food and spices are tied in with migration and the beginning of the Indian diaspora. Wealthy Indians were able to migrate around the world, and bring their culture of fresh and flavourful food with them, making Indian food a popular choice of cuisine globally.

Prof Kuah pointed out how remarkable it is that in modern days, we can simply go to the grocery store and find any kind of spice no matter where one is in the world. She concluded her talk by focusing on the connection between food and cultural identity, and suggested to students that “If you do not know how to start a conversation, talk about food”, because it is a talking point where we can all find common ground in our differences.

Image4Prof Kuah introduces students to popular Indian spices

Image5Students smell the spices

At the end of her discussion, Prof Kuah handed around some popular Indian spices for students to smell, which included cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves. After the lecture, students were given a chance to look at and photograph the elegant display of food, and then the buffet began. Students were able to try new dishes, including pakora, butter chicken, spinach soup, naan bread and more. Most students seemed to enjoy trying the new dishes, with students going up for seconds.

Image6Students fill their plates with the buffet food

Image7Students are able to try traditional pakora

Image8The buffet is full of delicious options for the students to choose from

Wilson D’Silva, manager of the Zhuhai Indian Kitchen, said that they love hosting group events, and hope that the Zhuhai locals can grow to love Indian food. Indian Kitchen has been open for 15 years, and serves both Northern and Southern Indian cuisine. It has been given a Certificate of Excellence on TripAdvisor, so students know they are not just trying Indian food, but they are trying authentic and delicious Indian food.

This has been the fourth semester that Dr Islam has offered this off-campus learning experience for the students. He started offering this experience with “The objective to give student a first-hand experience of Indian culture apart from classroom learning.” He also introduces his students to Indian clothing, and brings in saris to the class which students can try on. Dr Islam’s course is one that is sought out after by students. Cherry Chen Yingwei, a Year Two Statistics Student, said she decided to take the course because she heard that Dr Islam was a good professor, and that he supplements his teaching with many course activities which she finds help her to learn more efficiently.

Image9Cherry and Levina enjoy trying Indian food

Image1Students and guests gather for a group photo

Levina Chen Leyao, a Year Two Statistics Student, decided to take this course because “China has many ties with India, and is also a developing country so I was interested in learning more about that relationship”. Levina and Cherry both said that coming to the restaurant aided them in their understanding of Indian culture. It was their first time trying Indian food, and getting to go off campus to the restaurant allowed them to experience the culture in a way they can’t by only being in a classroom.

Reporter/Photographer: Samantha Burns
Editors: Deen He, Samuel Burgess
(from MPRO)