Chinese New Year festivities often involve the practice of many traditions – one of which is the tossing of the ‘Yu Sheng’ for good fortune. It is called 'Lo Hei' in Cantonese, which literally translates to 'tossing up good fortune'. This refers to the ritual adopted in Singapore of tossing the 'Yu Sheng’, while saying auspicious phrases before eating it. It is popularly believed that the higher the toss, the better your prospects and fortune in the year ahead.
‘Yu Sheng’, (Chinese: 魚生), or Prosperity Toss, is a Cantonese-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish (sometimes salmon), mixed with julienne of cucumber, carrot, radish and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients.
Yusheng literally means "raw fish" but since "fish (魚)" is commonly conflated with its homophone "abundance (余)", Yúshēng (魚生) is interpreted as a homophone for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor. - Wikipedia
A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same (to varying extent) as another word but differs in meaning. A homophone may also differ in spelling. The two words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) an rose (past tense of "rise"), or differently, such as carat, and carrot, or to, two, and too. - Wikipedia
Yusheng is often served as part of a multi-dish dinner, usually as the appetizer due to its symbolism of "good luck" for the new year. It may be eaten on any convenient day during the Chinese New Year period (the first to the 15th day of the first lunar month).
A prepacked dish of Yu Sheng. The Salmon is additional. Most people replaced the raw fish with salmon now, after a scare some years back, when people fell sick after eating raw fish. You can also be creative and make your own version of Yu Sheng by changing the base ingredients to whatever you like.
The base ingredients are put into a big plate first. The leader or host of the table, or the restaurant server proceeds to add ingredients such as the fish, the crackers and the sauces while saying “auspicious wishes” (吉祥话) as each ingredient is added, typically related to the specific ingredient being added.
All diners at the table then stand up, and proceed to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying various "auspicious wishes" out loud. It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the diners' growth in fortunes, thus diners are expected to toss enthusiastically.
Of course, the higher you toss the yusheng, the messier the table will be. But when your one year of good luck, and prosperity depends on the height of the toss, I guess a little mess is nothing.
This is the preparation of tossing for good luck, or prosperity.
Diners gather around the table – each with a pair of chopsticks. The host or whoever is most familiar with the process will prepare the dish. In the restaurant, it is usually the server for that table. At home, it could be anybody. But in most cases, everyone around the table will want to have a piece of the action.
There are 12 steps in all.
Empty basic ingredients - julienne of carrots, cucumber and radish, or whatever is used to replace the base ingredients onto the plate. At the same time, wishes of luck and prosperity evoked by the names of the ingredients were mentioned out loud.
恭喜发财 (Gong Xi Fa Cai) meaning “Congratulations for your wealth”; 万事如意 (Wan Shi Ru Yi) meaning, “May all your wishes be fulfilled”.
Raw fish, or salmon is added, symbolising abundance throughout the year.
年年有余 (Nian Nian You Yu) meaning, “Every year got more” which plays on the Mandarin word for fish sounding like ‘abundance’.
Shredded red carrot is added.
鸿运当头 (Hong Yun Dang Tou) translating to, “Good luck is approaching”.
Green radish is added.
青春常驻 (Qing Chun Chang Zhu) meaning, “Forever young”.
Shredded white radish added.
风生水起 (Feng Sheng Shui Qi) meaning, “Progress at a fast pace”; 步步高升 (Bu Bu Gao Sheng) which means, “Reaching higher level with each step”.
The flesh of pomelo is added, or sometimes the juice of a couple of limes are squeezed over the ingredients.
大吉大利 (Da Ji Da Li) translating to, “good luck and great prosperity”
Spices added to symbolise greater prosperity and fortune.
招财进宝 (Zhao Cai Jin Bao) meaning, “May you attract wealth and treasures”.
Oil and plum sauce are poured over ingredients, symbolising an increase in profits and a flow of money in all directions.
一本万利 (Yi Ben Wan Li) meaning “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital”; 财源广进 (Cai Yuan Guang Jin) meaning, “May you have numerous sources of wealth”.
Peanut crumbs are poured over.
金银满屋 (Jin Yin Man Wu) meaning, “I hope that your house will be filled with gold and silver.”
Sesame seeds sprinkled over.
生意兴隆 (Sheng Yi Xing Long) translates to, “Wishing you prosperity for the business.”
Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows are then added.
满地黄金 (Man Di Huang Jin) literally translating to, “May the whole floor be filled with gold.”
All diners at the table then proceed to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks whilst saying wishes out loud.
The order of adding the ingredients is not important, but it make sense to have the bigger items at the bottom, so that when you toss the salad, it will mix well.
From its origins as a simple raw fish dish, the recipe has gone through a series of transformations since the 1930s, when emigrants from China brought the dish to Singapore.
As people are more affluent, and health conscious, there are now vegetarian yu sheng, and sometimes, the based ingredients for the dish are changed. For example raw fish is replaced with salmon, and the Julienne of vegetables root vegetables to some other leafy vegetables like lettuce and Garland chrysanthemum, making the dish looks more like a salad. At the end of the day, it is up to the creativity of the diners and the ingredients they prefer.
Between the first day and the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year, all restaurants will have this dish in their menus. At every meal, there will be some tables doing the Prosperity Toss. Usually, people will have a few Prosperity Toss within the fortnight. And if you are very social, you will have more than you care for. But I guess when it comes to luck, everyone would love some. And better more than less.
These are from another occasion.
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