How to Eat as a Broke @ss College Kid and Throw a $2,000 Dollar Dinner Party

“Good food does not mean expensive, elaborate, complicated or difficult. Good food means good food. Whether you spent 4 days aging your own duck in the perfect tempered climate, buy all organic, or inhale a .99 cent pizza at 4 a.m; when you’re eating these dishes it doesn’t matter the process, only the final product.”

-Almost Vegan

Being in college sucks. I’ve been a broke college-student for the past 5 years–and still, have three more years to go. It didn’t help that I decided to switch my college three times, State twice, and major every other week. But still, the theme here is being broke sucks. However, I do not believe this is an excuse for having a poor diet, both nutritiously and more importantly deliciously. 

A good diet is the foundation for a good life. You may start every morning with a donut while rushing to work/class: or you skip lunch because you are cramming for that pointless Egyptian history midterm. Maybe your dinner consisted of 5 Natty Lights and a few Jager Bombs–I also have been there. If this sounds like you then you need to stop, take a look at yourself, and re-asses your eating habits. They don’t call them “freshman 15” for nothing. Believe me, I know. As I said, I have changed my college three times, and each time I have gained an extra “freshman 15.” 

After my second college (Culinary School) I was spending wayyyyyy too much money on food. I was buying all organic, market-fresh, top of the line groceries and throwing dinner parties left and right. These parties cost upwards of 1200 dollars. I would put my heart and Seoul into these parties, taking 3-4 days to plan, shop, and execute. I often would fall short of my own expectations and always go way over budget. 

The biggest disappointing party I threw was a surprise birthday party. I had an overly huge menu, consisting of complicated dishes, expensive ingredients, and involved way more work then I expected. In the end, I half-assed half the dishes and was unable to complete the rest. I was truly disappointed in myself and felt miserable. 

I did this again in the following 4th of July party I threw in Brooklyn Park. I order expensive buffalo beef, bought coolers and a grill, games, tables, easily a $2,000 party and again failed in the food and at execution. I was so drunk at the end I tried to leave everything I had just bought at the park and go straight home. Luckily my friends at the time helped me get everything back to my place, which consisted of a $100 Uber.

Both of these parties in my eyes were huge disappointments. A lot of money was spent and the food was just “alright.” Whatever life gives you it’s extremely important to try and look at the positives. In both of these parties, I learned something that would change my cooking method for the better. Good food does not mean expensive, elaborate, complicated or difficult. Good food means good food. Whether you spent 4 days aging your own duck in the perfect tempered climate, buy all organic, or inhale a .99 cent pizza at 4 a.m; when you’re eating these dishes it doesn’t matter the process, only the final product. 

During that surprise birthday party, there was one huge success. Spicy Popcorn. I created this dish to feed to guests right when they arrived. This way they could be snacking while I finished the main dishes. However, that day, popcorn became the main dish. People loved it and couldn’t get enough. Even asking, “how do you make it?” and “what’s my secret?” People were literally losing their shit over this popcorn. I couldn’t appreciate the gratitude then, but now, what an honor that is to have people go crazy over my food. No matter how simple it is food can be delicious. I’m actually a firm believer in the simpler the better. To quote one of my old chefs,

 “Quality dishes is just taking food and not fucking it up.” 

At the disastrous 4th of July party, again, I noticed the simplicity in food, but in a different way. I spent way more then I should have on buffalo meat for the burgers. (Cows were actually imported from Asia, so I wanted to create true American beef burgers for the 4th by using the indigenous buffalo). It turns out buffalo beef kinda sucks for burgers. It’s super lean and the flavor really isn’t anything special. There’s a reason the cow reigns supreme when it comes to a classic American burger and that day I was reminded again, simplicity is delicious. 

Of course every day I ate I was not cooking for a dinner party. I noticed the longer I was in school the less I nutritious the food I ate got. Sure, at dinner parties I was going all out, however when cooking for myself, midnight burritos and take out Chinese was not uncommon. I do not want you to stray away from these treats. They are delicious in their time and place. But they are TREATS, and should not be eaten regularly. Years of eating and drinking as a poor college kid took a toll on my body for the worse. I became fatter and more out of shape than I ever have been which led to a discuss whenever I looked in the mirror. I believe whena person looks in the mirror they should get excited. “Hell yeah!” are the words I want to hear from everyone whenever they see their own reflection. If you don’t feel that way I want you to take a moment and see what it is you can do in order to achieve that “Hell Yeah” sensation. 

As I said, a good diet is the foundation for a good life. I’m going to show you cheap and delicious recipes, using classic Korean kids’ school lunches, week-long leftovers that you would normally throw away, and of course, my famous Popcorn recipe that will make you look like a goddamn G at any dinner party. The goal here is to show you delicious, nutritious food can be cheap and sustainable. Nobody can live off of Jager and donuts. In this case, I want you to think of sustainable as sustainable for yourself. So nourish yourself. Kick some ass, and shout a big, “Hell Yeah” next time your looking in the mirror. 

This kimBap recipe is EXTREMELY flexible. You do not have to use anchovies but I encourage people to get out there and try new things. Also, anchovies are not only high in protein and nutritious fats, but they are also one of the most sustainable fish sources we can eat. Double Win!! Feel free to experiment and find the kimbap that rocks your socks off! The vegetables are also open for creativity. I picked these three because I feel like they are the most common in an American grocery store, but feel free to switch it up and experiment!


Anchovy KimBap Ingredients

  1. Anchovy mix
  2. Nori Seaweed
  3. Veg
  4. Song… Young Dumb & Broke, by: Khalid

Pickled Veg Ingredients

  1. Carrot…1 whole cut into rectangle
  2. Celery…2 whole cut into rectangle
  3. Cucumber…1 whole cut into rectangle
  4. Onion…1/2 medium cut into strips
  5. Chili…3-4 whole, cleaned (save the guts)
  6. Sugar… 20 g
  7. Water…500 g
  8. Vinegar… 300 g
  9. Salt… 15 g

Procedure Pickle

  1. Place the sugar, vinegar, water, chili guts, and salt in a pot, give it a stir and bring it to a boil
  2. Once at a boil shut it off and add all your veg you wish to pickle
  3. Let cool and enjoy

Perfect rice recipe

  1. White Rice…180 g
  2. Water…216 g

Perfect rice procedure

  1. Weigh dry, white rice
  2. Measure 1.2X the amount of water to the rice weight
  3. Wash rice with different water at least three times…wishy-washy style.
  4. Drain the rice and then mix with measured water into a pot
  5. Let rice sit in water for 5 minutes and do absolutely nothing
  6. Turn your heat up as high as it will go. Let the water come to a boil. Then turn it to as low as it will go, covered, and do not touch for at least 15 minutes. 
  7. Check rice after 15 minutes by tilting pan, if there is water coming out the side let it cook for a little longer. If not then turn the heat off and let sit, covered, for another 15 minutes. 
  8. Uncover the rice and fluff.
  9. Enjoy!!!

Anchovy mix ingredients

  1. Anchovies (dried)…100 g
  2. Garlic…1 clove, minced
  3. Sunflower oil… enough to coat the pan
  4. Vinegar… 2 tablespoons
  5. gochujang…9 g
  6. sugar…4 g
  7. sesame oil… a drizzle
  8. Sesame seeds… as much as you want
  9. Fresh chilies… 2 chopped into small pieces

Anchovy mix Procedure

  1. Heat sunflower oil in a pan on high heat
  2. Add anchovies and stir, stir, stir
  3. Once crispy and hot turn leat to low and add rest of ingredients (except sesame oil)
  4. Stir, stir, stir for 3-5 minutes and let cool to room temp
  5. Stir in the chilies and sesame oil and enjoy.

KimBap Assembly

Think of this like American style sushi

  1. Lay the Nori sheet, shiny side down, and add a thin layer of rice
  2. Add all your pickled veg in a neat and orderly fashion
  3. Add your meat (in this case the anchovies).
  4. Roll like a burrito, first hugging all the ingredients tightly together, then finish rolling into a completed roll.
  5. Cut in half, then half, then half, until you get bite-size pieces. 
  6. Eat straight up/ dip in soy/ sprinkle some mayo/ possibilities are endless, just ENJOY!!!!

Final Thoughts

Dinner parties are a great way to hang with your friends but can get expensive and extremely stressful. Remember to keep it simple, keep it sweet, have fun!! and serve up my popcorn recipe and I promise your friends will be calling you Chef by the end of the night.

Check out da Shit left in your Fridge Fried Rice

Becky will be so jealous when she tastes this Almost Vegan Popcorn

Published by almostveganofficial

Former vet, cook, and now a current student at Columbia University trying to spread some inspiration to get back in the kitchen and make some kick-ass food!

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