Monday, 2 February 2009

Yu Sheng

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No.. This is not Yu Sheng.. This is my 12 year old pomeranian, Tinky, who just got a shave because her fur balls were dropping all over the place.. Looks like Tinky needs to go Yunnnan.. But this haircut is cut ain’t it? She looks like a Siamese cat.. Haha..
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Yes… This is the Yu Sheng..
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Yusheng (also spelt Yu Sheng) meaning "raw fish" is a Chinese New Year dish, served traditionally on the seventh day of Chinese New Year or Ren Ri ("Everyman's Birthday"). It is a salad dish made of thin slices of raw fish and various spices, mixed with tossing actions by diners. A play on Chinese homonyms links the ingredients and tossing actions to prosperity and longevity, all adding to the good wishes for the new year.

Origins
It is believed that Yusheng has its origins in southern China. Legend has it that a young man and his girlfriend found themselves stranded by bad weather at a temple with nothing to eat but a carp they had caught. Chancing upon a bottle of vinegar, they added this to the stripped carp and found it quite appetising. Today's colourful version of Yusheng and the practice of eating it on the seventh day of Chinese New Year appear to be unique to Malaysia and Singapore. Four local chefs are credited for developing Yusheng as we know it today. They named the dish "Lucky Raw Fish" and popularised it as a New Year delicacy. The chefs are Lau Yeok Pui and Tham Yui Kai, master chefs at Lai Wah Restaurant along Jalan Besar, and their good friends Sin Leong and Hooi Kok Wai. They had previously been colleagues at the Cathay Restaurant at Cathay Building.

Ingredients
Arranged on a large serving plate, the colourful array of ingredients include raw fish, which is traditionally ikan parang or "mackerel", shredded green and white radish drained of liquid, shredded carrots adding a bright orange tinge to the dish, pickled ginger, crushed nuts and pomelo. The ingredients are topped with various condiments including deep-fried flour crisps, crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon, pepper and other spices. All at the table would then jointly toss the salad with a generous portion of plum sauce and cooking oil to add sweetness and taste.
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Rituals and Meanings
Yusheng is deemed auspicious because of its homonymic quality - yu means "fish" but enunciated appropriately, it also means "abundance", while sheng literally means "raw" but enunciated appropriately, it means "life". Thus Yusheng implies "abundance of wealth and long life". In Cantonese, it is known as lo sheng with lo also meaning "tossing up good fortune". The tossing action is called lo hei, which means to "rise" (hei), again a reference to a thriving business and thus its popularity with businessmen during the New Year.
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Step 1: All at the table offer New Year greetings. (Does anyone do that today? I doubt so.. At least those in my family don’t I know we shout alot of auspicious idioms when we are tossing the Yu Sheng though.. )
Words: Gong xi fa cai 恭喜发财meaning "congratulations for your wealth" or wan shi ru yi 万事如意meaning "may all your wishes be fulfilled".

Step 2: Fish, symbolising abundance or excess through the year, is added.
Words: Nian nian you yu 年年有余and you yu you sheng有余有生.

Step 3: The pomelo is added over the fish, adding both luck and auspicious value.
Words: Da ji da li.大吉大利
Pepper is then dashed over the ingredients in the hope of attracting more money and valuables.
Words: Zhao cai jin bao.招财进宝
Then oil is poured, circling the ingredients to increase all profits 10,000 times and to encourage money to flow in from all directions.
Words: Yi ben wan li 一本万利and cai yuan guang jin 财源广进.

Step 4: Carrots are added to the fish, indicating blessings of good luck.
Words: Hong yun dang tou.红运当头
Then the shredded green radish is placed on the fish, symbolising eternal youth.
Words: Qing chun chang zhu.青春常住
Next, the shredded white radish is added for prosperity in business and promotion at work.
Words: Feng sheng shui qi and bu bu gao sheng.风生水起 步步高升

Step 5: The condiments are finally added. First, peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish, symbolising a household filled with gold and silver. As an icon of longevity, peanuts also symbolise eternal youth.
Words: Jin yin man wu.金银满屋
Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business.
Words: Sheng yi xing long.生意兴隆
Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows are then added with wishes that literally translate to mean the whole floor would be filled with gold.
Words: Pian di huang jin.片地黄金

Step 6: All toss the salad an auspicious seven times with loud shouts of lo hei and other auspicious New Year wishes.
Words: Lo hei which is Cantonese for "tossing luck".
The ingredients are mixed by pushing them toward the centre, an encouragement to push on the good luck of all at the table
adapted from:
http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_177__2009-01-08.html
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Er-hem.. My cousin.. Haha..

2 comments:

心魔 said...

last I heard... yu sheng is done only in Singapore and Malaysia... it's not part of the CNY routine in China and Hong Kong... but hey; very informative post all the same!

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