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27 February 2007

Yusheng

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Yu Sheng or Yee Sang or 鱼生 is a Chinese-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish (most commonly salmon), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. Literally translated, "yusheng" means "raw fish", though it can also be taken to symbolise abundance, prosperity and vigor.

The delicacy was invented 1,500 years ago in southern Chinese coastal areas such as Chaozhou and Shantou, during the Song Dynasty. According to legend, a Chinese female deity known as Nüwa (女娲) created mankind from clay and mud on the seventh day of the first month of the Lunar New Year. From then on, this day was known as the "Birthday of Man". It is believed that the fishermen and seafarers of ancient Southern China were very observant of this myth. On this day, yusheng would be prepared in feasts or religious ceremonies, not just to commemorate the event but also to show respect to Nüwa. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many of these fishermen immigrated to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore in search of a better life. They brought this traditional dish along with them. Yu Sang originated in Kuala Lumpur as far back as in the early fifties. It was a dish available only after the Chinese New Year when the restaurants reopened, and diners had the dish as a starter,to raise 'good luck' for the coming year.This dish was then adopted in time throughout the then Malaya as it was evident that it was popular and for the restaurants, a very profitable dish despite the labour intensiveness of chopping and slicing the ingredients. With the advent of electrical devises, preparation was made easier but purists in Kuala Lumpur still only frequented restaurants that prepared the ingredients by hand.In 1964, yusheng began to be associated with Chinese New Year (CNY) festivities in restaurants in Singapore. Mr. Tham Mui Kai, the head chef at Lai Wah Restaurant of Singapore, offered this unique CNY dish that combined raw slices of a local fish with a melange of ingredients including shredded carrots, turnips, ginger and jellyfish. In addition, he pioneered the idea of pre-mixing the yusheng sauce in a mix of plum sauce, salt and pepper before serving the dish. Soon after, other restaurants and eateries in Singapore and Hong Kong adopted this practice.

Now, in the 21st century, "Lo Hei" -- tossing yusheng -- is a CNY custom for families and friends to gather around the table and, on cue, proceeding to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying 吉祥话 (Jíxiáng Huà, auspicious wishes) out loud to mark the start of a prosperous new year.


Typical ingredients include: fresh salmon, daikon (white radish), carrot, red pepper (capsicum), ginger, kaffir lime leaves, Chinese parsley, chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, Chinese shrimp crackers (or fried dried shrimp), five spice powder. The dressing is made primarily from plum sauce.


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1 comment:

coco_panda said...

yum yum....
i love yu sheng. i love tossing it all over the place..kakaka..
it makes chinese new year more... erm....chinese new year!