I started my rounds of lao yusheng ‘捞鱼生’ early this year at Majestic Bay, a modern Chinese restaurant helmed by chef Yong Bing Ngen (you can’t go wrong with him) located at the Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay.
In Singapore, lao yusheng ‘捞鱼生’or lo hei ‘捞起’ is a must-have dish during Chinese New Year due to its auspicious connotations. Yusheng implies “abundance of wealth and long life”, while the tossing action lo hei is a reference to tossing up good fortune. This dish is made up of over 10 ingredients, each symbolising well wishes for the new year.
The practice of eating raw fish can be traced back to as far as the Song Dynasty – it has been a traditional dish of the Cantonese people (which include the Teochews who are also from Canton province) that is eaten on the 7th day of the Chinese New Year to celebrate Ren Ri (The day god created humans in Chinese mythology). This eating habit was then imported to Singapore and Malaysia when Chinese migrants moved south, and this dish has since been localised to suit the local palate.
Auspicious words to say when putting the ingredients:
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 – 年年有余 (Nian Nian You Yu) meaning “Abundance through the year”
Pomelo or lime – 大吉大利 (Da Ji Da Li) meaning “Good luck and smooth sailing”
Pepper – 招财进宝 (Zhao Cai Jin Bao) meaning “Attract wealth and treasures”
Oil – 一本万利 (Yi Ben Wan Li) meaning “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital”
Carrots – 鸿运当头 (Hong Yun Dang Tou) meaning “Good luck is approaching”
Shredded green radish – 青春常驻 (Qing Chun Chang Zhu) meaning “Forever young”
Shredded white radish – 风生水起 (Feng Sheng Shui Qi) meaning “Progress at a fast pace”, or 步步高升 (Bu Bu Gao Sheng) meaning “Reaching higher level with each step”
Peanut crumbs – 金银满屋 (Jin Yin Man Wu) meaning “Household filled with gold and silver”
Sesame seeds – 生意兴隆 (Sheng Yi Xing Long) meaning “Prosperity for the business”
Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows – 满地黄金 (Man Di Huang Jin) meaning “Floor full of gold”
Plum Sauce – 甜甜蜜蜜 (Tian Tian Mi Mi) meaning “May sweetness enters your life”
You are free to say anything – as long as it’s auspicious and what you wish for the new year. Most people wish for a promotion or to strike lottery. The most humorous one I have heard while tossing is from a lady trying for a baby: “More sex, more sex!” I admire her candidness.