A Taste of Home

unnamedAccording at 2013 Gallup Poll, “eight in 10 Americans report eating at fast-food restaurants at least monthly, with almost half saying they eat fast food at least weekly. Only 4% say they never eat at fast-food restaurants. ” For most people, eating fast food is about convenience, but for students ordering takeout to the dorms is also about connecting their memory of their cultures.

  Ask Chinese students at Thornton what they miss most from China and home cooking is the answer most of the time. But one cure for homesickness is a meal from Koi, a Chinese restaurant here in Biddeford that delivers Chinese food right to the dorms.

Koi does all kinds of advertisements targeting boarding students and provides them different versions of menu which has Chinese translations on it. All the dorm kids know Koi and appreciate a little taste of home so close to their school.

Stacey Li has been living in the dorm for four years. She started ordering Koi her first year here after being introduced to it by her friends who were already graduated. She speaks Chinese when ordering.

She orders Koi every day, and she spends about twelve to twenty dollars each time for takeout. Her favorite food is a soup named “super spicy beef soup”. She sometimes eats with her roommate. But since that girl has a boyfriend this fall, she often eats alone.

She said if they take 20 to 30 minutes to deliver she gives a two dollar tips, but when they take closer to an one hour she does not like to give tips or a smiley face.

She said she loves the food there, except thinks that it can be a bit too oily. She prefers rice over noodles.

The first dorm students came in 2009. Since then the dorm program has been growing well. There are 38 new dorm students this year, making a total of over a hundred  international students. While the places they come from is becoming more and more diverse, the majority numbers still come from China which has been great for Koi’s business.

Mrs. Paradis said there are still lots of Koi orders coming to the dorm, but that last year Koi’s delivery people came more since this year kids always order in groups. And there are  fewer Chinese students than last year in the dorm since some moved to homestays or graduated last year.

Mrs. Paradis and her family  who run the dorm also orders Koi. The last time was 3 weeks ago. Her favorite food from Koi is chicken pad thai and broccoli in garlic sauce. She prefers more that she said she prefers American food more since she is an American who grew up with American.

Mrs. Paradis confirmed what many students believe which is that Koi treats Chinese students in a different way since they have different version of menus. I thought it would be impolite question to ask Koi’s owner so I did experiments by myself. I’m living in a homestay. Once I asked my homestay mom to order Koi in her language which is English. The plates of food we got were bigger and we got crab rangoons. And another day I ordered by myself. The plates were smaller and  we didn’t get free gifts and their delivery was much slower than the last time.

Mrs. Paradis’ favorite Koi memory was when the dorm program ordered from Koi to celebrate the lunar new year. They totally over- ordered, spending about 2000 dollars. They got this amazing, huge sushi ship that was so big that she will never forget and on the ship they were all kinds of sushi.

Talking to Jennifer who is the owner of the KOI, is almost impossible because she is so busy.  She did say that the reason she came to America was that she loves Chinese food and she likes to cook. She opened KOI opened on April 17th in 2011. Her timing was excellent, as the dorm kids started to order for delivery November the same year. She said that Chinese kids often ask if KOI have some food they don’t have on the menu but that they have in China. And they try to make it as they describe. She also said that this year the orders from girl’s dorm is much less the last year. During our interview, she dropped the phone since she got another call for ordering. She was way too busy to chat.

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Educating students for more than 200 years.