Coming to Portsmouth was not only the start of an academic journey but also a journey of cookery. When I arrived in this distant place, I fed myself with only fried or raw food for a few weeks. I obviously survived in those days but felt a strong sense of obligation to roll up my sleeves and cook home food for my desperate Chinese stomach. I went to a grocery store and ambitiously bought pork to make meat balls, chicken to stew, salmon to fry (with asparagus) and tomato for soup. However... I was naïve to over-estimate my cooking abilities. The result can be easily predicted and I guess even homeless dogs would refuse my food!

Well, I am a young lady and I am resourceful! I asked for help from my two housemates who are really good at cooking. They gave me really helpful advice: start with something simple and easy. In their view cooking should be simple and creative: you can just mix whatever you like from what you have in the fridge and cook up a feast. Not for me, I struggled for a while to learn a simple meal to please my stomach: Chinese style fried rice.

The first thing I did was observe my housemates' cooking process. I cannot cook creatively like them, so copying their steps methodically was the best action. From preparing the cooking materials to decorating the plate, I was so upset and nervous to try the first bite. Even though it was not as perfect as imagined, I was still encouraged by my improvement.

Afterwards, I felt like I was endowed with something magic. I have become passionate about cooking and even obsessed with looking through recipes before going to sleep every single night. I save recipes and try them one by one. I enjoy spending a big chunk of time preparing myself a big meal every Sunday and sharing it with my friends.

So, here are some tips for those of you who want to give it a go:

  1. Don't hesitate to ask for help! Ask your friends here and those back at home in your country. You can even video call your parents. Their advice will be more practical than just checking recipes.
  2. Start with something easy and simple rather than something fancy and ambitious. Simplicity is a skill itself.
  3. Look up and use recipes to inspire yourself. Creative ideas will stimulate your imagination.
  4. There are different ethnic food stores scattered across Portsmouth and Southsea, where you can get authentic spices and ingredients from your country.
  5. Always share food with friends. Invite friends from different countries to your home. Friends are your drive to improve and get better, while food magically shortens the distance between you and your friends, no matter how different your backgrounds are.
  6. Be wary of compliments. Some may compliment you because you have made an effort and have made them a free dinner. On the other hand, believe that you are capable of becoming a good cook and know how to recognise a real compliment when it is given.

Cooking is enjoyable and rewarding. Being called a marvellous chef is the best compliment ever! Have a good look at the pictures of some meals I've prepared then go back home to make yourself a cup of tea and cook up a plate of good food to warm up your hungry and homesick stomach and soul in this freezing British winter.

If you’d like to see the experience of one of our previous International Students, including cooking their own food, check out this video:

International Student Life at Portsmouth