5 Foods to Keep On Hand for Your International Student

Preparing food for your international students can be challenging. You might not need to worry about it in the first few weeks — eating what a family from the United States typically eats can help international students better understand the new environment and culture. After a while, a lot of the international students with a “Chinese stomach” will probably start getting tired of it. Here are a few things to keep in your pantries or refrigerators for your international students from China.


Rice could be the one thing that your international student had in their meals every single day while they were in China. While the international students might not necessarily want to have it every day, it is nice to have the option when needed. For example, when you have pulled pork for dinner, the international student can choose to have rice while you can have your mashed potatoes.

Don’t forget to get a rice cooker! Cooking rice on the stove is a lot more challenging and requires experience — even the international students themselves might not know how to do it. Having a rice cooker can make both you and your international student’s lives easier. You can get one for less than $20.

Ramen / Instant Noodles


This is definitely not the healthiest choice of all, but it is loved by most of the international students. It’s simple, fast and tasty. While this shouldn’t be regularly included in the students’ meals, it’s a great Plan-B to have. Adding in eggs, vegetables, and meat while cooking the noodles can make it into a healthier and more nutrient-balanced meal. You can be very creative with instant noodles.

A friendly reminder: don’t buy the instant noodles from the regular grocery stores you always shop at. Japan is where instant noodles were invented, and you definitely have more choices when it comes to Japanese instant noodles. Korean and Chinese supermarkets have a lot of great options, too. The simpler the flavor is, the easier it’ll be to mix it up with other foods that you’re adding in while cooking. If you’re not sure about the flavor, ask your international student or invite him/her to help you with shopping! It’s a great way of bonding as well.

Vegetables (for cooking)

A salad is healthy, tasty and refreshing, but not all of the international students can get used to eating vegetables raw. Having some veggies in the refrigerator ready for cooking can be very helpful. Most of the green-leaf vegetables, such as lettuce, broccoli, bok choy, and kale, are excellent choices. Boil them with water and a tiny bit of salt would do.

If you’re worried about the veggies going bad in your refrigerator since your international student might be the only person eating those, try frozen vegetables. They’re super convenient for boiling and steaming, and can last longer in your fridge.

Lao Gan Ma Chili Crisp Sauce


Ask your international student before you get this for him/her. Though Lao Gan Ma is usually rated as the no.1 must-have for Chinese students in the US, spicy food is not for everybody after all. This is like a Chinese version of Sriracha and can be used for literally everything.

You can use it as a dipping sauce for vegetables, dumplings, meat, or any food you can think of. It’s also great as an add-in flavor while cooking.

Your Favorite

Last but not least, you should always have your family’s favorite on hand for your international student! Your family is the new home for your international student. While it is very thoughtful of you to prepare food that the international students are more familiar with, it’s always good to encourage them to eat what you eat, and naturally become a part of the family.

Check out our homestay blog for more information on Cambridge Network as a homestay provider, tips for hosting, and our host testimonials. If you’re interested in hosting an international student, please fill out an inquiry form!

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