guides & articles

Related listings

Latest Postings

Subscribe to the hottest news, latest promotions & discounts from STClassifieds & our partners

I agree to abide by STClassifieds Terms and Conditions

Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Give a toss for luck

Know all about Yusheng this Chinese New Year
Asia One - February 12, 2013
By: Rebecca Lynne Tan
| More
Give a toss for luck

Yusheng is the one dish that never goes out of fashion during Chinese New Year.

The traditional raw fish salad, which has taken on many forms and variations over the years, is a customary dish shared at festive celebrations where diners usually stand up to "toss" the salad with chopsticks, while rattling off auspicious phrases.

In fact, the higher you toss the better, as that signifies wealth and prosperity, while spilling salad outside the dish is akin to an overflowing abundance of good fortune.

Popular idioms and proverbs that accompany the lo hei or tossing ritual include nian nian you yu, which means to have abundance and surplus year after year; tian tian mi mi, to welcome a honeyed year ahead; bu bu gao sheng, which means to progress with every step; and wan shi ru yi, for success and favourable circumstances.

There has been debate over the years as to the true origins of the dish. One camp says it originated in Singapore back in 1964, created by the Four Heavenly Kings of the nation's restaurant scene then: chefs Hooi Kok Wai, Sin Leong, the late Tham Mui Kai and the late Lau Yoke Pui. Still, others say it dates as far back as the 1920s and 1930s, and yet another camp is adamant the dish belongs to Malaysia.

Traditionally, the salad usually includes carrot, radish and pickled ginger as well as other ingredients such as pomelo, candied tangerine peel, peanuts and sesame seeds.

Thin slices of raw fish are then seasoned with condiments such as five spice powder and pepper, and freshly squeezed lime juice, before being added to the mound of colourful vegetables. Oil and plum sauce are poured over the ingredients, followed by the addition of crunchy golden crackers.

And no item is there for show - each has a significance behind it. For instance, five spice power and pepper represent good fortune, and the crackers symbolise roads paved with gold.

These days, there are many types of yusheng, ranging from new-fangled variations that include dressings made with fruit juice and fruit puree, to ones topped with roast meats instead of fish. There is even an Indian variation by Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands that features chaat or Indian snacks, and tandoori chicken.

Most of the time, the basic elements, such as carrot, radish, nuts and spices, are part of the dish and it is the other ingredients that vary.

Japanese versions of yusheng, for example, are made with different types of seaweed, while yusheng at Western restaurants tend to include salad greens such as radicchio and mesclun. Other toppings include crispy salmon skin, deep fried whitebait, lightly battered enoki mushrooms and fried lotus root chips, instead of, or in addition to, crackers.

Yusheng has also gone more upmarket of late, with the inclusion of more expensive and luxurious seafood such as geoduck, lobster, abalone and otoro or tuna belly. To usher in the Year of the Snake this year, several restaurants, including Peach Blossoms at Marina Mandarin and Peony Jade at Keppel Club, are also including unagi or eel in their yusheng, as eel resembles a snake.

Restaurants such as Carousel at Royal Plaza On Scotts are opting for snakehead fish, as well as other auspicious "snake" ingredients (right) including snakegourd and snakeskin fruit.

With the plethora of yusheng choices out there, of which most will be available till Feb 24 (unless otherwise stated), there is certainly no shortage of options for diners.

For those who cannot remember the auspicious phrases, just holler for prosperity by shouting: "Huat ah!"


Chi-chi ambiance at Chopsuey Cafe

Gong xi achar