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Yee Sang

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Yusheng or yee sang (Chinese: 鱼生; pinyin: yúshēng) 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.


In modern times, yusheng is most commonly served in Chaozhou and Shantou. Recently, some Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong have re-introduced this dish, naming it "Lo Hei". The dish is, however, particularly popular in Malaysia and Singapore, where it has come to be associated with the Chinese New Year festivities. It is a 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.


As for the tradition of eating yee sang during Chinese New Year, this is a recently invented “tradition” of the Chinese in Malaysia (and Singapore). Yee sang – a dish of raw fish slices mixed with crunchies and other ingredients plus sauces of various kinds – is not part of New Year cuisine among the Chinese of Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc. Part of the attraction or fun of eating yee sang comes from audience participation or participant observation, i.e., all those present at the dinner table, whether young or old or men or women, are supplied with chopsticks and are actively encouraged to indulge in boisterous mixing of the ingredients simultaneously. Thus, a feeling of family togetherness/bonding/affirmation of ties/social solidarity is created at the same time. I suppose one could also say that the kids enjoy this because it allows them the rare chance of playing with their food without being reprimanded for it by adults!

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7 Comments:

Blogger Honey Star said...

Wishing you and your family adundance of good food, great health, prosperity and happiness!

Gong Hei Fa Choy!

2/23/2007 11:06 PM  
Blogger Jackson said...

How can i miss out such a great blog! Love those beutiful picture of food and great review of food rating!! Thx for sharing!

2/24/2007 12:42 AM  
Blogger MeiyeN said...

very nice photographs! seems like you are one pro-photographer?

3/05/2007 5:18 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hey, thank you very much for your kind comments. I am still learning ...

3/05/2007 9:55 PM  
Blogger lance said...

Hey, I remember this! Or, am I mistaken? ;)

3/13/2007 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

meiyen, those photos were taken by somebody else lah

3/13/2007 11:40 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Yes Lance. It is what you remembered alright. Magnificent shots right ... can't remember your friend's name who did these shots, but they do look good in here.

3/13/2007 3:20 PM  

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I'm Timothy From Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
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