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Yee Sang (鱼生) The Nanyang Way

Posted by Jason Wong On January - 29 - 2012 |

Yee Sang or Yusheng (鱼生) or Prosperity Toss or Lo Hei (撈起) in Nan-Yang (Malaysia and Singapore) has its origin from Mainland China brought in by the immigrants during the colonial occupation era when both Malaysia and Singapore were still one. It is one of the must have festive dishes during the Chinese New Year celebration that signifies the hope for a better harvest and prosperity for the year to come.

Eating raw fish slices or Yusheng dates back before the Qin Dynasty (秦朝) were the main ingredient is the thinly sliced raw fish and some condiments that changes according to the seasons changed. During Spring a spring onion sauce is the compliment and during Summer Chinese mustard is paired with the thinly sliced fish meat. As there was no cold storage in the olden days, the fish is usually caught live, and kept separately in clean water and fast to rid it of the excess fat to make the meat firmer. Then when it is time to serve, the fish is drained of its blood by making incisions on its abdomen and tail area and placed back live into the water; this process is to induce the sliced fish meat to achieve a silky smooth transparent appearance.

The Yee Sang that is being widely served during Chinese New Year in Malaysia and Singapore has a close resemblance with the Cantonese version (GuangDong佛山九江魚生) found in GuangDong China. This variation has 19 individual ingredients, ribbon shaped fritters, deep fried vermicelli, deep fried shredded yam, scallion, shredded ginger, shredded radish, shredded chilies, Chinese olive, pickle scallion bulb, raw sliced garlic, peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar, vinegar, peanut oil, salt and pepper.

The Nanyang Yee Sang is a culmination of the Cantonese (ingredients and tossing) and Teow Chew (the Plum sauce) variety with the addition of five spice, and this should have at least the following ingredients to make up the dish:

  • Raw fish (有魚/余), symbolising abundance and excess through the year.
  • Pomelo pulp or lime (大吉大利), lime juices added to the raw fish brings together the meaning of good luck and smooth sailing.
  • Pepper (招财进宝), dashes of pepper symbolizes the attracting of more money and treasures.
  • Oil (一本万利), with oil circling the ingredients denotes the encouraging of money to flow in from all directions.
  • Shredded carrots (鸿运当头), the red colour of the carrots symbolizes the blessings of good luck.
  • Shredded green radish (青春常驻), is placed to symbolize eternal youth.
  • Shredded white radish (步步高升), meaning better prosperity in business and career.
  • Ground peanuts (金银满屋), the sprinkle of ground peanuts symbolizes a house filled with wealth, gold and silver.
  • Sesame seeds (生意兴隆), the seeds symbolize a flourishing business.
  • Golden browns crisp crackers (满地黄金), shaped in a golden pillows, it symbolizes  abundance of gold.

Visually, there should be 7 different colours in the Yee Sang that represents the 7th day of the 1st month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, which is also the “renri” (人日) or literally translated to “human day”. On the 7th day, Chinese’s will celebrate the birth of human and thus celebrating ones “birthday”. The 7 colours of Yee Sang also shares the folklore of the Hakka dialect, where 7 different vegetables with 7 different colours are either stir-fried or made into a soup chowder that is savoured during this auspicious day.

Gong Xi Fa Cai


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4 Responses to “Yee Sang (鱼生) The Nanyang Way”

  1. Whoazzy !! That’s what I call something delicious and finger-lickin !!


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