Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Yu Sheng, Yee Sang, Prosperity Toss

During Chinese New Year, you will hear the Chinese greeting each other 'Gong Xi Fa Cai' ('Congratulations on your wealth!') and 'Wan Shi Ru Yi' ('May all your wishes be fulfilled!')

This dish is commonly known in Malaysia and Singapore. Eons ago in the olden days of China, fishermen would feast on their catches on the 7th day of Chinese New Year. Don't ask me why, but I suppose for the rest of the year, most of the fish are sold for income? :D

Now the 7th day of CNY, according to Chinese customs, was when humans were first created.  Supposedly. So it is known as 'Renri' (but pronounced as 'ren re'), which means 'everyone's birthday'.

So it became a custom for the families to gather for dinner, and served an appetiser dish called Yee Sang, which is the Cantonese of Yu Sheng (鱼生). The direct translation is 'raw fish'.

The homophone of it brings you to the phrase Yúshēng (余升) which means 'increase in abundance' which I suppose, that is why this dish is also known as the 'Prosperity Toss'.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Having this dish served (before the main course) symbolised continued wealth and prosperity.

It sounds like the Chinese are really into their wealth, eh? :)

Anyway, this dish is now so commercialised that it is available at restaurants even during the days leading towards Chinese New Year in Singapore and Malaysia.

 Enough of brief history.

If you love this dish so much, you can now recreate this dish anytime you want as a delicious salad for your meals!

My first attempt wasn't too shabby. :)
Yee Sang for two!

I made it as one of our dishes for dinner the night before Chinese New Year, based on Noob Cook's recipe. I followed it as closely as I could, and it turned out great!

The second time I made it was the next day, the 1st day of CNY as my contribution to dinner over at WC's house. It was improvised a teensy bit, with the addition of some coriander, which I had realised was missing the first time.

My mum insisted that the vegetables needed to be shred as thin as possibly, which created more work for me and took up a LOT of my time. I'd peel the vegetables and then slice them finely with a knife.

Next time, I'm not going to bother with that and just use the grater!

And I think you should, too!

And I told her that. ;)

Von's Prosperity Toss


1. Main:
1 carrot, shredded
1 cucumber, shredded
1 piece of white radish (as large as the cucumber), shredded
2 wedges of pomelo, broken into bits
pickled ginger
instant jellyfish
yam strips, coloured with green and red [see NoobCook's recipe!]
wonton skin crackers
handful of coriander, roughly chopped 

2. Sauce:
2 TBSP of plum sauce
1 TBSP of honey
1 TBSP of water, to dilute the mixture a bit. (You can add another TBSP if it is still too thick)
Juice of 1/2 lime, you may squeeze it into the mixture directly or serve the salad with a wedge of lime to be squeezed onto the platter upon serving.

3. Garnish:
1 TBSP of toasted sesame (or more, up to you)
2 TBSP of crushed roasted peanuts
1/4 tsp of white pepper
1/4 tsp of cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp of five spice powder

Once you've arranged the main ingredients around the plate, sprinkle the garnish over it, and then pour the sauce around it.

Create a mountain: Yee Sang for 5 adults!

There are so many variations of this dish that you don't have to worry whether you have missed out an ingredient or not. The most important thing(s), the glue that holds this dish together, is the sauce. And garnish.

And pickled ginger. (Like the ones served at sushi bars/Japanese restaurants.)
And wonton skin crackers.

Alternative main ingredients may include shredded lettuce, shredded red cabbage, red or green capsicum/peppers, shredded jicama bean (sengkuang), etc and the list goes on.

Alternative to pomelo can be grapefruit, mandarin oranges or tangerines.

You may include salmon or tuna sashimi, or slices of cooked abalone to the dish.

Everyone tossing for increase of abundance of everything good, including the 2 kiddies.

Well, you don't have to have everyone tossing the salad if it's your regular meal. Just do it yourself in the kitchen before serving. :)

Anyway, like all customs do, some of the ingredients represent or symbolise something. I had a chuckle when reading Wikipedia!

The crispy crackers represent a 'floor full of gold'.
Raw fish for 'abundance'.
White radish for 'progressing at a fast pace' for prosperity at work.
Carrots are for good luck.
Plum sauce is for a life full of sweetness.

I hope you'll have fun trying this dish out. Most of the ingredients are available at your Asian grocery store.

And tomorrow is the 7th day of Chinese New Year, so 'happy birthday' everyone! :)


  1. I've always wondered about how this custom of tossing fish in the air came about. Seriously, all my life I've been wondering but never bothered to find out, I just went with the flow ... LOL!

    1. "all your life"? are you sure???
      aiya, trust me, i didn't know the meaning behind it until i looked it up!