The name might not sound that appetizing, but this is a delicate dish which takes a lot of work and is expensive in the making. This dish “Yusheng” or “yee sang” is only eaten during Chinese New Year and it is a popular cultural activity for Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia. This is not a common practice for other Chinese-popluated countries, most likely because the origin of this dish was from Singapore. This dish was created by four chefs in a Singapore restaurant kitchen in 1964, and eventually it became a local flavor which was made popular by the Chinese community.
This dish usually consists of strips of raw fish (most commonly salmon), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. Yusheng literally means “raw fish” but since “fish (鱼)” sounds like “abundance (余)”, Yúshēng (鱼生) is interpreted as meaning an increase in abundance. Just like any other foods served during the Chinese New Year, this one has a rich symbolic meaning.
The most exciting part of eating this dish is when every one takes the chopsticks and dips into the salad (it might be offensive to some), and everyone tosses it all together. I was at Robert’s a few years back when he served this dish on the New Year, it was quite interesting to see the look on this fellow’s face when he was asked to put his chopsticks in for the tossing ceremony. He looked pale, and afterwards he did not touch the dish at all. So if you ever got an invitation to one of these dinners, be prepared that you will be dipping your eating utensils with a bunch of other people. This tossing action is called “lo hei”, and everyone has to cry out while they throw the salad as high as possible, for ‘lo hei” means “to rise” which symbolize prosperity. This is particular important for businessman, as higher the salad goes, the more profitable their business will be for the year.
The only time I had this salad was at Robert’s, and to make this dish requires a lot of patience in cutting things into thin slices. I will never attempt to do it on my own, but I found a couple of recipes which seems quite interesting. This one is from Honey and Soy food blog, if you don’t mind all that cutting this is a good recipe to try.
Happy Year of the Rabbit everyone !