Malaysia is a multi-cultural country in Southeast Asia where its people, comprised of various races and religions, live harmoniously and share traditions, foods, and celebrations. While it has a Malay (Muslim) majority, the Chinese and Indians have also called Malaysia home for generations. The Lunar/Chinese New Year ("CNY") is the biggest opportunity for my extended family to celebrate together. And, eat – Malaysians’ favorite pastime! Our yearly family reunion is what I miss the most since immigrating to America 20+ years ago. I couldn’t travel home to Malaysia for CNY regularly, so to keep the tradition going, in 1999 I started a CNY celebration with friends and colleagues at Nyonya, a Malaysian restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown. We always start off with the “Yee Sang” Prosperity Salad—a colorful, crunchy appetizer available only during CNY in Malaysia—that we toss together using chopsticks. The higher the salad ingredients are tossed, the more luck and prosperity we’ll have. Dinner is a seemingly endless procession of Malay, Chinese, and Indian dishes from the kitchen to our tables, followed by tropical desserts and Mandarin oranges (another symbol of good luck). We read hilarious Chinese Zodiac Animal horoscopes, catch up, laugh. Then I hand out ang paus (red envelopes with lucky money) to everyone.
We leave feeling happy and full, but we’re already looking forward to next year's celebration. These friends and colleagues have become my family here in NYC, and I treasure the opportunity to share this Malaysian CNY tradition with them every year.
– Annie L.