Sorry for this long overdue post on a Chinese New Year delicacy. Time flies…the year of the snake blitzed past us with an infant and the year of the horse came galloping in so fast that all I only had time to prepare one Chinese New Year dish and no time for bigger gatherings since it was a really busy time for us.
Yusheng as it sounds in Chinese means raw fish which sounds the same as other Chinese words that mean abundance and progression.
This used to be a delicacy when I was a kid. The dish had to be ordered in advance when people placed reservations in a Chinese restaurant as it takes time for the restaurants to prepare this dish.
As a kid, most Yusheng uses raw Ikan Parang (A Malay word for a fish that is shaped like a special Malay sword), known in English as White Wolf Herring and in Chinese as Xi Tau Yu/ 西刀鱼. It should not to be confused with the western Sword Fish. The raw fish that is fillet from an Ikan Parang takes a lot of effort and good slicing skills as this fish has a lot of long needle like bones and a skilled chef is able to fillet the fish into small and very thin sashimi without the bones.
As Singapore advanced over the years and there were more imports of Atlantic fish like salmon, more people started using salmon for this dish that is very popular during Chinese New Year in Singapore and Malaysia or other neighboring countries.
I am not quite sure about the originality of this dish except hearing older folks say that it might have originated from Malaysia.
Salmon sashimi became a popular alternative to Ikan Parang as it is already a well liked Japanese food in Singapore and many parts of the world.
I used a variety of ingredients including salmon sashimi, diakon, carrots, cucumbers, wakame (to add Jade green colors to the dish), red ginger, crushed peanuts, black and white sesame seeds, Asian-store bought wonton skin snacks that were made in Hawaii and pomelo. For the dressing, I used XO Cognac (which my dad said would kill germs and his favorite brandy), sesame seed oil, a small amount of Lee Kum Kee plum sauce, a pinch of ground white pepper and Japanese rice vinegar. I had forgotten to add a dash of cinnamon powder which I learned from fellow Singaporean friends.
Last but not least and the most important part as the title suggests is tossing this salad high up with family and friends shouting out various prosperity Chinese proverbs. This year since we were too busy to have bigger gatherings and my husband was taking a video of me and my daughter tossing the salad while I taught her to say a few proverbs that meant prosperity while she tossed gently or rather helped me mix them up so we didn’t have a messy table or lost too much of the salad. Typically people toss this salad high to emphasize the well meaning proverbs for the new year.
It was our only dish for Chinese New Year since it was a big salad for ourselves and a couple of our guests weren’t able to make it, so I didn’t want to make anything else. The salad by itself was already a delicious and healthy meal that we couldn’t get enough of.
Live, long and Prosper and have a great year of the horse!