Working with families from five different countries for the past 3 years have exposed us to the different cultures & traditions of our Picha families. We’ve learned how the Syrians brew their coffee using a kettle, while the Afghans always drinks tea, and the Palestinians loved showcasing their deserts! But as much as we love learning about their cultures, we wanted to share with them our local cultures too.
zaza’s first visit to a chinese temple
I remembered during Chinese New Year in 2017, Zaza (our dearest late Syrian Chef) made his first visit to a Chinese temple to witness the prayers & celebration. He was so fascinated by it that he kept sending us photos of temple rituals, celebrations and even the photos of items used for the Buddhist prayers haha! He was also amazed by the beautiful firecrackers firing all the way. We were laughing as he was sharing his newfound discoveries with us.
Knowing that our Picha families are genuinely interested to learn more about our culture (they’ve been sending us lots of Chinese New Year greetings), here in Malaysia as a Chinese, we were very willing to share with them as well. And there’s no better time than Chinese New Year!
RANIA & NAWAL’S FIRST Cny celebration
Last year, we hosted our very first Chinese New Year Open House at Swee Lin’s hometown in Malacca. When we asked our Picha families to join us, they were very excited and interested to know how the celebration is done. Rania (our Syrian family) and Nawal (our Iraqi family) agreed to follow Swee Lin back to Malacca to organise the CNY Open House. So we booked an Airbnb, posted about the event on Facebook and started inviting other guests to join us.
What’s interesting was that besides Chinese, there were people from other backgrounds attending the event as well. It was lovely to see a melting pot of different cultures all celebrating Chinese New Year in one room, having a meal, conversations and further understand the plight of a refugee. Our Picha families also got to experience how Swee Lin’s family celebrated Chinese New Year, and tried many new things from going to bai nian (open house) to playing with fireworks and also receiving Ang Paus!
DALIA & NESREEN’S FIRST CHINESE COOKING
Another way we introduce the Chinese culture to our families is through the food itself! Because food is the best and easiest way to explore a new culture!
Being in a food business, we had to constantly innovate our menu to suit our customer’s taste buds & preferences. So for Chinese New Year, we introduced some local Chinese dishes to our Picha chefs for them to learn. Dalia, our Palestinian chef, learned how to cook the Chinese signature sweet & sour chicken while Nesreen from Syria, learned to prepare Roasted Duck.
Through Picha, we learnt that a common dish like Mixed Vegetables was something totally new to our Picha Families because they usually enjoy their vegetables raw (like fresh salad). Our Picha Families also didn’t understand how we can enjoy eating “plain rice” that has no taste at all, because their rice is always flavourful and packed with spices (which we explained why we enjoy dishes with sauces). Eventually, they were accustomed to tasting those cuisine themselves and it was interesting to watch them trying their own Chinese cooking haha!
Dalia’s Sweet & Sour Chicken
But the most interesting Chinese dish for them was the Yee Sang! Our Picha chefs have neither heard nor seen a colorful vegetarian salad like the Yee Sang and they were so eager to learn more about it. So we educated them on the ingredients, explaining the symbolic meaning behind each ingredient and also got them to join us in tossing the Yee Sang (btw, have you watched our Yee Sang video here?
Fun Fact: When they struggle to remember the name of “Yee Sang”, they call it the “Chinese Salad”
Nesreen’s Pomelo Yee Sang
The more we spent time with our families understanding each other’s culture, the more we realised that they are actually very open to many other different religions and cultures. Yes, they may have their own practices and traditions but they also respect and celebrate other occasions together like Chinese New Year and Christmas. It truly opened our eyes to see how receptive they were to understanding and learning about our cultures and that’s what Picha is all about.
Picha’s business model was to serve authentic traditional meals prepared by refugees in Malaysia to Malaysians or beyond so that they can have sustainable lives. However, in its core, we want to break barriers between cultures, we strive to help people understand at the other side of the war-torn country, there are genuine people who truly cared about one another despite what religion they practise are where they come from.
When we asked our Picha families more about what do they think about other cultures — Racism and Discrimination were NEVER in their books. Instead, they learn to embrace differences and were willing to try learning new cultural dishes in accordance to different celebrations and exchanging gifts with each other as well.
I’ve never received a Chinese New Year hamper myself before but I remembered one Chinese New Year, Zaza’s family bought me a Chinese New Year hamper and I was so touched, I thought to myself, this is the Picha we want to create. A Picha that everyone knows no boundaries when it comes to trying to understand and be compassionate to one another. Oh man, I miss this guy so much and how I wished people could witness his openness to humanity.
So whether it’s Chinese New Year, Raya or Christmas, know that our Picha families wish to celebrate these occasions with every fellow Malaysians. To receive Ang Paus, eat Rendang or exchange gifts to one another, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we celebrate with one another in a peaceful context and celebrate humanity at its finest. This is what Picha is all about and I believe this is what world peace is all about too.
Happy Chinese New Year again to all of you who are celebrating! For those who’ve been ordering from us, thanks for rebuilding lives together on this auspicious occasion.
If you wish to rebuild lives with Picha, you can still do so by ordering Nesreen’s Harmonious Set or Dalia’s Prosperity Set. Just click the picture below to secure your feast. HUAT AH!!!