One of my favourite things about Chinese New Year is the Yu Sheng (Raw Fish Salad). Although not a traditionally chinese ritual, this dish is eaten throughout the 15 days of the Lunar New Year in Singapore and Malaysia. The credit for this dish goes to 4 chefs who had worked together at the Cathay Restaurant at the Cathay Building.
The art of tossing Yu Sheng is not just in the tossing but in the sayings that accompany the tossing. At many of the gatherings that I attended this year, few people really knew what ought to be said and I thought it would be in order to see if google could help. It turns out that the National Library Board answered this question in 2008.
I have reproduced it here:
“Step 1: All at the table offers New Year greetings.
Words: Gong xi fa cai meaning “Congratulations for your wealth” or
Wan shi ru yi meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled”.
Step 2: Fish, symbolising abundance or excess through the year, is added.
Words: Nian nian you yu andYou yu you sheng.
Step 3: The pomelo is added over the fish, adding both luck and auspicious value.
Words: Da ji da li.
Pepper is then dashed over the ingredients in the hope of attracting more money and valuables.
Words: Zhao cai jin bao.
Then oil is poured out, circling the ingredients to increase all profits 10,000 times and encouraging money to flow in from all directions.
Words: Yi ben wan li and Cai yuan guang jin.
Step 4: Carrots are added to the fish indicating blessings of good luck.
Words: Hong yun dang tou.
Then the shredded green radish is placed on the fish symbolising eternal youth.
Words: Qing chun chang zhu.
After which the shredded white radish is added – prosperity in business and promotion at work.
Words: Feng sheng shui qi and Bu bu gao sheng.
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.
Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business.
Words: Sheng yi xing long.
Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows is then added with wishes that literally the whole floor would be filled with gold.
Words: Pian di huang jin.
Step 6: All toss the salad an auspicious 7 times with loud shouts of lo hei and other auspicious New Year wishes.
Words: Lo hei which is Cantonese for “tossing luck”.
The ingredients mixed by pushing them toward the centre, an encouragement to push on the good luck of all at the table. ”
Source: Tan, B (2002). Yu Sheng. Retrieved January 31, 2008, from Singapore Infopedia Web site: