The Lunar New Year falls on Feb. 5 this year. It's a momentous occasion celebrated by millions around the world, and we reached out to some of our friends to see how they'd be ushering in the year of the pig. Here, we chat with Wilson Tang of New York institution, Nom Wah Tea Parlor.
When asked about my favorite places to get dim sum in New York, Nom Wah Tea Parlor is always one of the first picks I suggest. Its iconic "Original 'OG' Egg Roll" is a must-order item—a little bundle of egg crepes that is unlike any "egg roll" you'd get at your local take-out. But beyond the all-day dim sum at this legendary restaurant on Doyers Street, which has been around for nearly a century, a big draw lies in its history and neighborly feel. Nom Wah remains refreshingly old-timey, right down to its retro signs and vintage decor.
Nom Wah's current owner is Wilson Tang, a born-and-bred New Yorker who took the restaurant's reins from his Uncle Wally back in 2011. He's kept the charming appeal that's brought in endless hungry customers to Nom Wah over the years, but has also helped cultivate a new wave of fans (as demonstrated by the hour-plus lines to get in for weekend brunch), marrying Chinese-American traditions with new.
Read on to see how Wilson will be spending the upcoming new year, and where he thinks you should spend it, too.
HANA ASBRINK: Happy almost-new year! What do you remember most about the Chinese New Year celebrations you had growing up.
WILSON TANG: It was pretty simple. We usually just went to one side of the family’s home to get together for a large meal, and hang out all with the cousins.
HA: Has the significance of Chinese New Year changed over the years for you?
WT: As I got older, there was an added element of explaining the concept of what Chinese/Lunar New Year was with my friends who weren't familiar with it. They'd ask me about it, and I'd be so excited to share my Chinese culture with them.
And now that I have my own family with two young kids, I can see how our celebrations are pretty similar to how it was when I was younger, where we'd go over and see extended family―but now I can have a beer and not be at the kids’ table!
HA: What are some of the most significant or most memorable Chinese New Year rituals?
WT: For me, it's the usual: You have to clean your home top to bottom, and prepare all the important red envelopes! Red envelopes are normally filled with cash and represent good luck; they’re traditionally given to the unmarried (kids) by the married adults.
HA: What is the most special part of Chinese New Year to you?
WT: For me, it's remembering the look of awe that I had on my face as a child when I would see the big celebrations in Chinatown. And now, I get to see that same look of amazement in my kids' eyes.
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HA: Do you have any recommendations for those who are unfamiliar with Chinese New Year festivities?
WT: You should check the calendars for when the festivities are happening in your area, and go down to your local Chinatown―you really get to see it all come alive.
HA: How do your customers celebrate Chinese New Year at your restaurants?
WT: The lion dancers usually come through at least once or twice, and the guests are always so surprised. It's pretty fun to deliver something a little unexpected alongside the food.
HA: How will you be spending Chinese Year this year?
WT: We're hosting our annual dinner at Nom Wah Tea Parlor for our staff. We shut down for an evening, cook up a storm, and just let loose.