By Abby Humphreys
Dining halls are mostly known for offering comfort foods like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of stepping outside the box with their menus.
While most other dining halls use their action stations for omelets or hot subs, Hatfields has been dishing out many multicultural favorites instead. Recent menu additions include Malaysian beef curry, Korean grilled chicken, pork carnitas, chicken lo mein, shrimp fried rice and Thai chicken curry.
Tastes are changing, and Hatfields is simply keeping up with the times.
“With an increase in international student enrollment, there are demands for more multicultural food experiences,” said Larry Koay, assistant director of WVU Dining Services. “A lot of students travel globally and have grown up with more international dishes.”
I was invited to try Hatfields Pad Thai last Wednesday, which is one of its most popular international dishes. I could smell the food’s distinct spices as soon as I stepped inside at 11:45 a.m., and I was surprised to find that the station’s line already numbered eight or nine people.
I was given the option of chicken or shrimp by the chef and watched as ingredients like red chili paste, garlic, bean sprouts and noodles were tossed one by one into the hot skillet. After a waiting time of only a few minutes, my food was complete. Extra offerings of spices, sauces and lime wedges were also available for added flavor.
I was thoroughly impressed.
The hints of hot chili, lime and peanuts gave this dish a complex flavor that other dining hall foods sometimes lack. The noodles had spent enough time in the skillet to soak up the delicious Pad Thai sauce, yet the bean sprouts were still crispy. The large portion size was also a plus.
And it’s a deal: Hatfields charges $6.75 for its Pad Thai, compared to $9 at other restaurants in Morgantown.
Koay was in charge of preparing the day’s dishes and cooked nonstop from 11 a.m. until Hatfields closed at 2 p.m. He served over 100 dishes of Pad Thai.
Koay, who is originally from Malaysia, owned an Asian food restaurant for 10 years before coming to work for WVU. Because of this, he’s familiar with the popular international dishes today’s college students are craving and knows how to keep it authentic.
When Koay added Vietnamese Pho this summer as a trial, one Vietnamese graduate student was thrilled. “He took a photo of it and sent it to his mother and brother. He said he had not had Pho since he came to West Virginia,” Koay said.
“He had two servings and was so happy. He said it was authentic and that we should definitely add it to our menu.” Vietnamese Beef and Meatballs Pho is now part of the regular menu rotation and is a crowd favorite.
You can find Hatfields’ weekly menu here.
All photos by Abby Humphreys