Laotian Birthday Blessing: Niphavanh McRant

May 14, 2024

Throughout Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Compass Group is shining a spotlight on amazing Associates. Next up is Niphavanh McRant, senior account management analyst for Foodbuy. She is celebrating her eighth anniversary with Compass in June. She, her husband and 12-year-old daughter live in Southern California.

“I was born in Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia that borders Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. War and oppression drove my parents, brothers, sisters and me from our homeland in 1975 and we were placed in a refugee camp in Thailand.

“We came to this country in 1980 as refugees. There’s nine kids, so it’s a blessing within itself that God was watching over us through our journey to America because we all made it here alive. Our family was sponsored by the Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, and we lived there from 1980 to 1986. My parents were in the garment and textile business and moved our family to the Los Angeles area where we lived for a while.

“For most of our lives, we were secluded from the Laotian community. When we moved to Fresno, California, we were closer to a larger Laotian population. So it’s our heritage that we carry with us everywhere.

“Laos is a Buddhist country, and we believe in the lunar calendar. Our New Year’s is a week-long celebration beginning April 15 and we go to the temple to give our offerings. At the same time, it’s the Water Festival and we cleanse ourselves from all the bad stuff so we can start fresh the New Year. That is one of the traditions that I am passing on to my daughter.

“Our cuisine is another tradition. I have some favorite recipes. Bamboo soup is a vegetarian dish made with bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Chicken curry noodle soup is another favorite. Lots of curry and spices and rice noodles. The other dish is laab.  It’s like a salad and made with diced chicken or beef and spices. It’s very flavorful.

“I actually introduced my daughter to a new dish. It’s a stir fry noodle dish, an equivalent of a Pad Thai, but it’s Laotian style. We’ve been making that for her birthdays as a longevity offering. And for dessert, she loves mango and sticky rice.

“Giving blessings on somebody’s birthday is another Laotian tradition. We take a piece of yarn – white or any color – that’s been blessed by a Buddhist monk. We tie the yarn bracelet around the wrist of the person celebrating a birthday and give them our blessing and well wishes.

“Eventually I would like to take my daughter to Laos and show her where my journey began.”