My Lucky Tummy serves up delicious, homemade international delicacies

The pop-up food court was hosted at the Alibrandi Catholic Center on Saturday, and included dishes from Iran, Bhutan and the Mowhawk Nation.

On Saturday night, more than 400 local Syracuse residents, Syracuse University students, and members of Syracuse’s refugee communities came together at the Alibrandi Catholic Center for My Lucky Tummy, a celebration of cultural cuisine and community.

My Lucky Tummy is a cultural pop-up food court. Held in February, May and October, My Lucky Tummy recruits five local refugee and New American chefs to share their native dishes with other refugees and with locals.

Photo: Tammy Chan
One of the My Lucky Tummy hosts serves interested and hungry participants.

The seasonal event is hosted by Adam Sudmann, an event planner who began the event upon moving to Central New York from New York City. With help from Northside UP, the St. Thomas More Foundation and the Silver Knight Foundation, Sudmann hosted the third My Lucky Tummy event Saturday evening, and has plans to continue it in the future.

Saturday’s menu featured dishes from nearby and across the globe. New York’s Mohawk Nation was represented by a man named Joe, who prepared an ash-washed corn chowder. Other communities represented at February’s My Lucky Tummy included Afghanistan, which featured Qabili Pulao, a basmati rice infused with lamb, carrot and raisin; Bhutan’s dishes, Kerala ko Achar & Aloo ko Achar, bitter gourd and potato pickled salads, respectively; South Sudan’s Gwenomakitilo & Malakwang, a groundnut stew with smoked chicken and greens, and a dessert from Iran called Shole Zard, which is an aromatic saffron, rose water, and pistachio rice pudding.

The rules of My Lucky Tummy are simple: MLT promises to always visit five countries, to always be someplace new, and to never repeat a dish. In addition, all proceeds from My Lucky Tummy events go directly to the refugee chefs who cook that night. Any leftovers from My Lucky Tummy events go to a nearby shelter. The organization composts all food scraps. And soon, Sudmann says, My Lucky Tummy will get veggies for its meals from Salt City Harvest Farm, a 36-acre plot cultivated by refugee families in nearby Kirkville, N.Y.

In addition to the native dishes provided at My Lucky Tummy, local businesses were also represented. Emma Voigt promoted her business Northside Messenger, which combines a variety of fabrics and textiles into stylish and colorful bags. Griffin Hill Farm Brewery, an active hop farm and brewery-in-development based out of Onondaga Hill manned the My Lucky Tummy bar, providing samples of the farm’s hops and serving suggested regional craft beer pairings for the evening’s meal.

Seating at My Lucky Tummy events is intentionally minimal; guests embrace My Lucky Tummy as if it were a cocktail party, but with a filling, ethnic five-course tasting menu. Meandering through the room and talking to strangers is also encouraged. Guests milled about the cavernous space in the Alibrandi Center, sampling food and drinking beer. The crowd ranged from families with small children to elderly couples. Some guests chose to sit on the chairs dotting the perimeter of the room, but most stood and made a point to talk to people they didn’t know.

A steady stream of guests came through the Alibrandi Center from the beginning of the event at 7 until it ended at 10 p.m. My Lucky Tummy typically anticipates a couple of hundred guests, but Saturday night’s event sold more than 400 tickets. “I had 40 gallons of soup for tonight, and that was enough to feed 400. I didn’t want to bring any home,” Mohawk Nation’s Joe, one of Saturday’s five chefs, said.

Tickets for My Lucky Tummy events are $20 online and $25 at the door, but kids under 10 eat free. May’s pop-up food court will feature Burma, Cuba, Somalia, Thailand, and dessert from Iraq.

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