Essay outshines food

By Andrew Duff

Put a few hundred people in the Newman Catholic Student Center’s basement, make sure there’s plenty of great food from all over Asia and then throw in a dozen hands-on activities, and what do you get? The final event for Asian American Heritage Month, “Taste of Asia.”

The night started with interesting cultural activities, where everyone got a chance to try out Asian musical instruments and play a game similar to jump rope that replaced the ropes with two clacking bamboo sticks. There also were plenty of unique candies, including a tasty hard candy that was labeled to have “Tamarind flavor.”

“It’s a really good turnout, and the spring rolls are great,” said Kevin Wong, an accountancy major and the president of the Asian American Association.

After most of the 200 people had arrived, the food was brought out and everyone got to have their fill of sushi, lo mien and even some really unique dishes, like Sarikaya, a lucky cake that is eaten at weddings, and White Noodles, which may be the origin dish of every college kid’s favorite noodles, Ramen.

Things were running a bit late because the attendants were enjoying their delicious free meal, but the real highlight wasn’t the food, it was in the reading of the winning essay for the Asian American Essay contest, titled “The Self That Begins With Others.”

The winner of the contest was YenHoa Ching, a freshman undecided major, whose touching essay about her adventurous life that started in Asia and ended up in Rockford, Ill., managed not only to quiet the boisterous crowd, but also earned her a standing ovation in addition to a $100 prize.

“I had written things before for college essays, about questions of the self, but I had never tackled the question of heritage,” Ching said.

As for the money for the contest?

“It’s going to help pay for tuition,” Ching said with a laugh.

Shabna Asmi, a graduate in electrical engineering, noted why Ching won the award.

“It was her growing up experiences that really made her essay stand out,” Asmi said. The essay, along with the two second place essays, will be placed on the Web page for Presidential Task Force on Asian Americans, located at