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Hungry for Home

Five international students share what foods they miss most from their home countries.

map pastel de nata hero
Image: All photos Getty Images

Winter 2022
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There is so much food that I miss from Portugal, but my ultimate favorite — the thing that I buy first at the airport cafe as soon as I land — is the pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart, above). This is not to be mistaken for other versions that exist in some Asian countries. Pastel de nata is filled with a sugary egg paste. It is best eaten warm, with a bit of cinnamon. Everyone who travels to Portugal should try it.

— Diogo Costa, McCormick School of Engineering junior


Eswatini, formerly Swaziland 

I really miss boerewors (South African sausage). It is literally the best food on Earth. We usually have boerewors with pap (soft porridge made from cornmeal) and chakalaka (spiced vegetable relish), a killer combination. When we have our braais (barbecues), there are always stacks of boerewors on the grill. My dad is usually in charge of the grill during the braai. Boerewors reminds me of home and summer, just good vibes while being surrounded by family and playing great music.

— Vuyiswa Mngometulu, McCormick School of Engineering junior



The food I miss the most is nyama choma (roasted meat in Kiswahili). It is usually goat or beef. This popular dish can be found throughout Kenya, from roadside shacks to fine-dining restaurants, and is often paired with local beer and side dishes such as ugali (cornmeal or cassava flour porridge) and sukuma wiki (collard greens and spices). Nyama choma reminds me of traveling to the countryside with my extended family over Christmas break and enjoying a meal together.

— Adala Makhulo, School of Communication junior



I miss everything my grandparents cook, especially baozi (steamed buns filled with carrots and lamb, tofu, beans and pork, or other meats and vegetables) and xiaolongbao (soupy buns). I only remember us making baozi together when my extended family — grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles — were all there. While playing with my cousins, I would run to the big table and watch my grandma teach everyone how to make them. As a little girl, I would ask the adults to teach me — but I would make something that looked nothing like a baozi. Sometimes my grandma would help me fix it. Other times, she would cook it just the way it was and then proudly proclaim it “the special one.” Every time I see baozi, it reminds me of my big family. 

— Sherry Xue, School of Communication senior 


South Korea 

A popular street food, ddukbokki is made with rice cakes and gochujang (red pepper paste) and often has add-ins like Vienna sausages, cabbage or fish cakes. It’s always a treat to huddle around a food cart with friends on a cold night and eat ddukbokki. My mom makes really good ones (recipes online are always too sweet), and I’ve developed my own recipe while at Northwestern!

— Allison Rhee, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications junior 

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Reader Responses

  • The next step might be an international food expo event.

    Sally Riessen Hunt ’65 Evanston, via Northwestern Magazine

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