Lin: KUA’s Nightly Visitor
A look at one of KUA's most frequent and celebrated visitors
It’s 9:30 pm on a Wednesday night and every boy in Dexter Richards dorm is pounding down the stairs, running towards the headlights of a car parked on the street, trying their best to be first in line for food.
Everyone is desperate and really hungry after study hours, and there is a crowd forming around the back of the now-open vehicle.
Lin – not “Ling”, as so many students would have you believe – is the iconic delivery man almost everyone knows at KUA. He comes every night to deliver Chinese food to the boarding students on campus. While he is frequently here at KUA, he also runs a restaurant: His restaurant is named Oriental Wok Express and
is located at 97 N Main St, West Lebanon, right next to a gas station.
Lin has been delivering food to KUA since 2004. He is so much a part of the KUA community that he has participated in multiple traditions. He runs a sushi rolling workshop during KUA’s bi-annual Global Fair, and in 2017 he helped announce the Head’s Holiday by “delivering” a food container that contained the iconic red tie.
According to Lin, the Chinese food he delivers is authentic and is not influenced by American Chinese food. Based on Lin’s experiences in delivering, “KUA students’ favorite one is the paiku tofu [or] beef with peppers[and] onions, pepper stir-fried meat, shredded pork with spicy pepper on it, and potato slices. Chicken’s [also] a favorite for the KUA [students].”
I decided to ask some students about their views on Lin’s cuisine. Ten out of the ten students interviewed said no, Lin’s food is not authentically Chinese. On average, students rated the quality – namely the taste, price, and amount served – a three out of ten. In most places, this might not be acceptable for a provider that delivers almost everyday, but this is Meriden, a rural community with limited access to a high-quality cultural cuisine.
Despite its shortcomings, Lin’s menu does provide a wide variety of options. A mix of Asian fare populates the menu, including sushi, fried food, and even specialty drinks. I asked some students about what they buy and freshman Yohan Do said, “I order a lot of rolls like the dragon roll, crunch roll, the kimbap roll, and the yonahara cucumber roll . . . [and] chicken wings,
dumplings . . . sometimes I have Chinese drinks [or] Powerade.” With so many options, it’s easy to spend a lot of money on each meal.
Lin says he makes around “$300-400 every visit.” Most students pay in cash, though some buy their meal with the promise of paying Lin the following night. Some students even order food from another establishment like McDonalds, Panera or Five Guys, and they pay Lin to bring it to them at a $6 delivery charge. Dorm parents have found it challenging to keep their residents in the building when Lin comes, as many students try to run down the street to catch him at the next dorm.
As an informal tradition at KUA, Lin’s nightly deliveries will continue throughout the whole school year. I found that Lin’s delivery is a good choice for students who may have missed dinner or who found the offerings in the dining hall to be unappetizing. For many students, they have to weigh their desire for a late-night meal with the cost of what may become a consistent habit. Lin’s food can be satisfying, though it may not be as authentic as advertised.