TummyTroll Specials: An overseas student’s Chinese New Year

TummyTroll’s homemade prawn roll snacks (hae bee hiam)… More on this later ;)

Have you ever wondered how Singaporean students abroad celebrate Chinese New Year away from family and friends? Our celebrations might be much more toned down with barely a decoration or two, but you would be surprised at how creative many of us are when it comes to CNY! Here are some things I have noticed across most student celebrations:

1. Almost all of us use our trusty rice cookers for “steamboat” because this REALLY works very well
2. Mahjong (yes, those with the tiles) and card games always find their way into our celebrations
3. Can’t get your hands on yusheng, pineapple tarts and other festive goodies? We DIY and make them from scratch!

This was actually a post written last year, but I decided to only publish it this year as it took a while for the entries to come in! A big thank you to my friends Andrea, Ai Wei, Lejing, Wan Ting and Shao Jie who agreed to share with us their unique CNY experiences. I hope this would make all of us less homesick and perhaps provide some ideas for Singaporeans celebrating CNY away from home! Gong xi fa cai! :)

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(Andrea with her friends! Andrea: Top left hand corner)

Andrea, 21
Year 3 student at Durham University, United Kingdom
Combined Honours in Social Sciences (History, Politics & Sociology)

“Being away from home during the festive season of get-togethers and quintessentially Asian traditions makes you appreciate it a lot more I guess, even the awkward conversations with some relatives you meet once a year and the incessant noise courtesy of the ever-expanding number of children in the family. It isn’t ideal to be away from family, friends and all the good food, but celebrating CNY overseas was actually quite enjoyable too; visiting the houses of fellow Singaporeans and pooling together whatever CNY goodies we had and savouring every single one to the last crumb, teaching the non-Asian friends to use chopsticks and play ‘dai di’, and even skyping the family back home during reunion dinner. Thanks to the company of great friends CNY still retained the sense of warmth that makes it such a great occasion! :)”

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singsoc family

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Ai Wei, 22
(Graduated) Masters student
HEC Paris, France
“So over CNY, the international students, mainly the Taiwanese, PRC and Singaporeans got together for hot pot. We just used our rice cookers. After that we played a game that was sort of like taboo/ charades. We each wrote down 3 famous people names and we were supposed to guess them. Group with most number of correct guesses wins. Loser team drinks shots haha!”
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Lejing, 20
Year 2 student at University of Exeter, United Kingdom
Bachelor of Laws
“Exeter celebrates CNY:

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Singsoc dinner on Chu Xi (reunion night) – With lou hei brought all the way back from Singapore (although I suspect the yu sheng is actually smoked salmon haha)
Then there were many dishes, the photos of which we were too busy eating to take.
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They served an exquisite fruit platter – I think Spongebob lives there.
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We spent Chu Xi night preparing the feast for the next day. We made ngoh hiang, and had to mince the pork manually because none of the supermarkets sold minced pork. We also made curry, with the very amateur-friendly Primataste pack!
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The next day, on Chu Yi, we continued on our culinary journey, trying to re-create the food we adored back home: braised abalone with broccoli, chilli kangkong, sambal aubergine, ABC soup…. and although we didn’t have the customary F&N/ miranda orange, we made do with Fanta!! :)
We attempted to fry nian gao too but it wan’t easy… seems like our grandmothers have some secret to it.
Only when you are away from home do you start to cherish your family and the effort the elders put in to keep the traditions going. Happy CNY to all of the overseas students, hope you feel the warmth of home even when you’re miles away!”
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(Wan Ting enjoying a piping hot steamboat dinner with friends! Wan Ting: Second from left)
Wan Ting, 21
Year 3 student
London School of Economics, United Kingdom
“For CNY eve, we had our SingSoc CNY dinner with an awesome group of friends and the SingSoc made their very own YUSHENG (it was really good!)
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Crashed somebody’s house to countdown to CNY while playing bridge and eating bak kwa (brought from Singapore!)
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On the first day of CNY, we had a homecooked meal with sambal kangkong, awesome omelette and spicy korean pork :D
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Played mahjong too!
This simple CNY gathering really helped to create a warm and fuzzy feeling, which is especially important in this extremely cold period, where all of us are celebrating one of our biggest festival away from home. Being able to celebrate CNY with great company, delicious food and plenty of laughter really helps cure homesickness and the lack of big fat angbaos! :) “
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Shao Jie, 23
Year 3 Economics student
University College London, United Kingdom
It is definitely common practice for students like us to eat out at restaurants during the CNY period and indulge in food that we’re unable to recreate in our hall kitchens. But before you think that’s the norm, meet Shao Jie, a Year 2 student doing Economics in University College London, United Kingdom. Otherwise known as one of the members of the FATTY BOYS ROAST MEAT band who sold Roast Pork and Char Siew at the annual UCL Chinese New Year Carnival at the start of February. He recounts his experience making the roasted meats from scratch:
(Shao Jie: Second from right)

“FATTY BOYS ROAST MEAT – Clogging your arteries since 2013.

So it’s Chinese New Year once again, my favourite time of the year when I endeavour to clog my arteries with all the great food and snacks. However, that is not quite possible when you are away from home, where such snacks are an expensive rarity.

Wait. Who cares about snacks anyway, we made ROAST PORK.

It all started a couple months back when I decided to try and roast my own char siew. Taking inspiration from Fatty Cheong (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oH6E-WVGSgI&list=FL39D-E-pHpQ72MtrXDCSHLA&feature=mh_lolz) and adapting from his recipe, I did a first attempt for a Christmas dinner last year. Yes, who cares about turkey when you’ve got pork.

Combining our powers, we made wanton noodles. Sorry, can’t quite find a photo of the wanton whoops haha. The char siew was above average I would say, but left wanting in the taste of the sauce. That has of course since been corrected. It is not rocket science really, just following Fatty Cheong’s tips and trial-and-error with the roasting process.

With that, the Fatty Boys set up shop in UCL’s CNY Carnival:

My housemates and I love cooking. We love pork too. Go figure heh. That said, it was quite a mean task: marinating the meat overnight in Ziploc bags, roasting them over a few batches through the night, cleaning up the oven and grills, transporting the sauce etc… One hell of a tiring day. Result:

We had something like three trays of this. It was quite mindblowing actually, imagining the amount of pork we were selling, 17 kilograms to be exact. Our fellow home chef Darrick supplied the Siu Yuk or Shio Bak, depending on which dialect you’re familiar with.

Those were some of our publicity photos. I must say, it was quite a touching experience, seeing the faces of our friends and customers light up, with all the wonderful praises and comments and the fact that there was actually a queue at our booth. We went back with our wallets a bit fatter but at the end of the day, I was just happy that we managed to fulfill some cravings, clog some arteries and bring that little smile of shiokness out of our customers.

If this university thing doesn’t work out, I know what I’m going to do with my life.

After all that is said and done ladies and gentlemen, please remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle!”

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As for myself, I will be spending CNY with some of my very own homemade CNY goodies, from Bak Kwa to sticky Nian Gao to Hae Bee Hiam (recipe coming soon). They are not fantastic but they sure will do! That’s all for this entry today! :) A special shout-out to all the students in the United Kingdom and Europe: If you happen to be in London for the CNY weekend on the 1st of February (Saturday), congratulations you have the good fortune to catch the Fatty Boys peddling their famous char siew and roast meat at the UCL Chinese New Year Carnival at reasonable prices (definitely cheaper and better than substandard restaurants)!

More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1432207390344941/

Posted by #phangchewfat

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One thought on “TummyTroll Specials: An overseas student’s Chinese New Year

  1. […] January 2014: traveled to Morocco, started school with a very bad cold, hosted one of my best friends for 1.5 weeks and organized a charity bake sale. This weekend, it’s Chinese New Year – a time for family reunions and celebration. I’m 10847.05km away from home, so I concentrated on the feasting…leaving me with a massive hangover. Also discovered that WT wrote about our 2013 celebrations in this blog post. […]

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