Yu sheng- Chinese New Year Raw Fish Salad

Chinese New Year for me is the epitome of abundance and feasting. Since Honey and I are away from our families, we have always tried to recreate our very own Chinese New Year feasts with our friends in Australia. In fact, we have learnt a thing or two from our friends since our families are far from traditional. One dish that we cannot do without during Chinese New Year is yu sheng/ yee sang, which is a salad with raw fish and considered an auspicious dish specially eaten during Chinese New Year because it is a homophone for ‘increase in abundance’ and therefore symbolises prosperity when ushering in the new year. What we didn’t realise before coming to Australia though, is that yu sheng/ yee sang is a Singaporean/Malaysian Chinese tradition, and a relatively new one at that, being created by a Singaporean Chinese chef in 1964.

The key ingredient in yu sheng/ yu sang is of course, the raw fish, and a variety of shredded vegetables, pickles, nuts and seeds and crackers for crunch. All the ingredients are presented separately on a large platter. If you’re wondering what the red packets are doing on the platter, they contain five spice powder and sesame seeds, which are sprinkled over once all the guests are gathered.

Apparently there are auspicious sayings that correspond to each ingredient, that one is supposed to recite as you add each ingredient. But as I said, Honey and I have not been schooled in these complicated traditions so we didn’t do this, but out of curiosity I did some research and found this very interesting list here.

Raw fish: nian nian you yu, for abundance

Lime: da ji da li, for good luck

Five spice powder and pepper: wu fu lin men, for good fortune

Plum sauce: tian tian mi mi, for a honeyed year

White radish: wan shi ru yi, for success

Red chilli: zhao cai jin bao, for prosperity

Lettuce: he qi sheng cai, for harmony and wealth

Carrot: bu bu gao sheng, for eminence

Pickled red ginger: hong yun dang tou, for good luck

Oil: fu yun nian nian, for good fortune and luck

Peanuts: jin sha man tang, for prosperity

Crispy crackers: bian di huang jin, for prosperity

When tossing: Utter anything auspicious, including sheng yi xing long, for brisk business, and sheng ti jian kang, for good health


I think it would have been very hilarious exercise for us and our guests working out the Mandarin- well, there’s always next year! :)

Then comes the most exciting part- tossing the salad! Everyone puts their chopsticks into the salad and tosses it together. The action of mixing the yu sheng is called ‘lo hei’, and hei means ‘to rise’, again symbolising prosperity.

Apparently, the higher you toss the salad, the greater your prosperity for the year. We think it’s all a bit of fun, really! It is also tradition to have yu sheng on the 7th day of the new year because it is believed to be the day that human beings were created. Honey and I love the taste of yu sheng. After trying out different kinds of fish, we like to use Hiramasa kingfish best because of its light flavour that complements the gingery plum sauce in the salad. Another highlight for me is all the different textures that come together- the smoothness of the sashimi, the grated vegetables, and the crunch of the nuts and crackers. We like making our own yu sheng initially out of necessity, but now because we realise that it’s so much healthier than a lot of what’s available in restaurants- we’ve been put off by garishly coloured pickles. And we were also really surprised at how easy it is to DIY!

Happy Year of the Rabbit to everyone!

Yu sheng- Chinese New Year Raw Fish Salad

(serves 6 – 10 people)

600g hiramasa kingfish / salmon

200g white radish, shredded

200g carrot, shredded

200g green mango/ green papaya, shredded

50g spring onions, shredded

1 red chilli, shredded

75g pickled turnip, shredded

6 pickled leeks, shredded

200g pomelo wedges/ pink grapefruit, peeled and separate the sacs

4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded

20g young ginger, finely shredded

1 pair yao char kwai (dough fritters), sliced thinly and deep-fried until crispy

100g sesame crackers (or deep fried wanton skins work really well)

70g roasted peanuts/ pine nuts, pounded

Sauce:

300g plum sauce

1 tbsp apricot jam

3 tbsp lime juice

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp sesame paste

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp salt or to taste

5g Chinese five spice powder, put into a red packet

50g toasted sesame seeds, put into a red packet

Method

Stir the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a low boil.

Cool completely before use.

Arrange the shredded ingredients attractively on a big, round serving platter.

To serve, pour the sauce over the yu sheng and sprinkle with five-spice powder and sesame seeds.

Note: I left out the kaffia lime leaves and chilli as I did not want them to over power the delicate flavour of the kingfish. I also left out the spring onions and leeks because our guests are sensitive to them.

     

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  • http://intolerantchef.blogspot.com InTolerant Chef

    How light and fresh looking! I think involving the guests adds a bit of fun!

  • http://www.michelle-chin.com Michelle Chin

    I love yu sheng! That’s one of the main reasons why i love cny!

  • http://wayfaringchocolate.com Hannah

    I only found out about this dish via blogs last year, and I hope I get to try it before too long! It’s so full of flavours that I love – pickles, heat, green mango… your version looks amazing!

  • Aish

    How apt! I just had my first yusheng for 2011 this afternoon at our annual CNY work lunch.

    Also found out then that it was an invented dish. Which left me bummed and exclaiming, “You mean its not true that the higher I toss the yusheng, the more good luck I’ll have?!”

  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    It is alot of fun, the last time we had so much fun was when we made our guests wrap their own california handrolls.

  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    What about the stew mushrooms with fatt choy?

    Soy

  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    Thanks Hannah, it’s amazingly simple to make, I do hope you get to try it soon too 8)

    Soy

  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    hahaha, if you believe it will happen!

    Soy

  • http://anediblemosaic.com Faith

    What a beautiful feast for the Chinese New Year! Happy Year of the Rabbit to you too!

  • http://snowdropm-berries.blogspot.com/ Yuki

    I was just wondering how the sauce was made the other day…thanks for putting up the recipe ^^

  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    Thanks Faith, happy New Year to you too!

  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    No worries Yuki, I hope you get to make it soon 8), look forward to hearing how you go.

  • Celia

    Gong Xi Fa Cai my dear friends! Have a truly magnificent Year of the Rabbit! The dish looks magnificent – we ate it for the first time ever last year. Please don’t laugh at me when I tell you this (my parents did), but I was keeping all these ang pow wrappers with fish on them. When my mum asked why, I told her I was waiting for the Year of the Fish. She laughed quite a lot. And you guys think you’re not traditional.. hahaha

  • http://applesundermybed.blogspot.com Heidi – Apples Under My Bed

    I’ve never heard of this! It looks great! Happy CNY :)
    Heidi xo

  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    Gong Hei Fatt Choy to you too Celia! Hope you have an even more abundant year ahead. I’m sooo sorry…we laughed soo hard at your non-traditional story..super funny!
    Soy

  • http://www.honeyandsoy.com honeyandsoy

    Thanks Heidi! Happy Chinese New Year to you too! Just had a thought that shredded apples will be great in this salad too!

    Soy