In a perfect world, Yale students would be able to take advantage of New Haven’s vast selection of appetizing ethnic eateries seven nights a week. Unfortunately, we are college students whose wallets cannot stretch nearly as wide as our stomachs. While we would all love tikka masala on Mondays, pad thai on Tuesdays, injera on Wednesdays and so on, we can’t afford to eat out every night. We have drinking habits to maintain and silly things like books to blow our money on.
So what’s a Yalie to do when the dining halls limit our ethnic eating options to one night of overcooked Indian food a semester? Accept gastronomic defeat and have Smart Start for dinner? No! Nothing prevents us from enjoying culinary treats from around the world but our imaginations!
Do not regard the condiment bar as a humble home for ketchup and mustard. Think of it as an arsenal of ingredients to whip up savory sauces — you’ll find the possibilities are limitless for your culinary creations. Mix peanut butter, soy sauce and sesame oil, and you’re on your way to creating a chicken satay that will give Bangkok Gardens a run for its money.
Incorporating items from the breakfast bar is a great way to replicate ethnic treats without leaving the comfort of your residential college. Think yogurt loses its usefulness after the granola is put away? Think again! Dice some cucumber slices and onions from the salad bar and toss them in a bowl of yogurt. Garnish the mixture with some scallions and you will have a raita dipping sauce that will rival any Indian restaurant this side of Delhi.
Commons may not offer the same exotic atmosphere as Thai Taste, and no one is confusing Calhoun with Caffe Adulis. But that doesn’t mean Yalies can’t enjoy ethnic eats without leaving campus!
Thai Chicken Satay
4 tbsp. crunchy peanut butter (Ask your dining hall manager if any natural peanut butter is available. Hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners are key for p.b. and j. sandwiches, but they seem out of place in authentic Thai cuisine.)
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. milk
1. Mix the peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and milk. (You may need to make this mixture in separate batches since the dining hall bowls are rather small.)
2. Microwave for 30 seconds or until mixture becomes more like a sauce than a congealed mass of peanut butter and oil.
1 chicken breast (If there is no chicken breast visibly available, ask the grill station manager for one. The dining halls keep them in supply for Yalies with dairy, soy, and wheat allergies who don’t eat red meat.)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1. Cut chicken breast into inch thick strips. Mix soy sauce and honey. Coat chicken with mixture. Microwave for 15 seconds.
2. Discard extra sauce and sprinkle on sesame seeds.
3. Dip in peanut sauce and enjoy.
Indian Cucumber Raita
2 cups yogurt
15-20 cucumber slices (Use your judgment to determine how many slices would equal two cucumbers — about 15 slices in Saybrook, closer to 25 in Commons)
2 tbsp. onions, diced
1 tbsp. spinach, chopped — about two leaves (If your salad bar serves only iceberg instead of baby spinach, talk to your manager. This needs to change.)
1 tbsp. scallions, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Dice cucumbers, removing the seeds as you go. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 5 minutes.
2. Combine cucumbers with onion, spinach and yogurt. Taste to see if more salt is needed. If it is, you know what to do.
3. Garnish with scallions. Add pepper to taste.
Raita is traditionally used as a dipping sauce for naan, an Indian flatbread. Warm up a four tortilla or pita bread (preferably whole wheat) in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Use it as your makeshift naan, dipping it in the raita.