Both of my parents are Phuket Hokkien Baba (similar to Paranakan in Malaysia and Singapore), descendants of Chinese men and Siamese women. After Chinese immigrants married local Thais and they settled down in Thailand. The first generation born and their children are called Baba. We preserve Chinese traditions with day-to-day Thai lifestyle and local culture. As a result of the blended Thai and Chinese cultures, our traditions are celebrated in a unique way.
As a child growing up in Phuket, Chinese New Year was my favorite time of year. The week before was set aside for a thorough cleaning of the house – a time when my grandmother said to brush away all the bad luck and to welcome the prosperous New Year. And a special communal feast dedicated to our spiritual ancestors was intended to contribute to our family’s future fortune. Several days in advance, we would focus on preparing the banquet feast and creating red paper cut out decorations to depict symbols of good blessings. Early in the morning before sunrise, I would wake up to the sounds of a chopping clever, a swirling spatula and a sizzling wok – these meant it was time for me to get up and help in the kitchen. By 11 am, the table was filled with traditional foods and in front of the ancestors’ altar. My family typically celebrated with the dishes I’ve shown in the photo above: tea, whiskey, steamed rice, roasted duck, stir-fry Phuket Hokkien Mee, 3 to 5 different kinds of vegetable stir-fries, and braised pork with five spices. Fruits and sweet delicacies were important desserts to complete the meal.
After the worship and burning of paper money, all family members gathered around the dinner table to enjoy the feast. And this is the only time my family served foods with chopsticks!