|Alternative names||Lou Sang, Yee Sang, Yu Sheng, Yuu Sahng, Lo Hei, Prosperity Toss|
|Place of origin|
|Region or state||Malaysia|
|Main ingredients||Raw fish (or soy fish for the vegetarian version), shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments|
|Other information||Consumed during Chinese New Year|
|Cookbook: Yee Sang Media: Yee Sang|
Yusheng, yee sang or yuu sahng (Chinese: 魚生; pinyin: yúshēng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: hî-seⁿ or hû-siⁿ), or Prosperity Toss, also known as lo hei (Cantonese for 撈起 or 捞起) is a Cantonese-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish (sometimes salmon), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. There is also a vegetarian version of this dish, where the fish is replaced with soy “fish”, which resembles salmon. 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.
While versions of it are thought to have existed in China, the contemporary version was created and popularised in the 1960s amongst the ethnic Chinese community and its consumption has been associated with Chinese New Year festivities in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
Today, the common form of yusheng is the qicai yusheng (七彩鱼生; “seven-coloured raw fish salad”) served in local restaurants during the Chinese New Year period. Also referred to as facai yusheng (发财鱼生; “prosperity raw fish salad”) or xinnian yusheng (新年鱼生; “Chinese New Year raw fish salad”), this colourful take on yusheng was said to be created in the 1960s by chefs Lau Yoke Pui, Tham Yui Kai, Sin Leong and Hooi Kok Wai, together known as the “Four Heavenly Kings” in the Singapore restaurant scene. The recipe included ingredients such as shredded white and green radish and carrots, ginger slices, onion slices, crushed peanuts, pomelo, pepper, essence of chicken, oil, salt, vinegar, sugar and more. To enhance the taste, the chefs began the practice of pre-mixing the sauce in order to ensure a balanced taste for each dish as compared to the past when diners mixed the sauce themselves. This new way of eating yusheng was not readily accepted until the 1970s when younger diners embraced it. From then on, the popularity of this yusheng recipe soared and spread overseas.
Fishermen along the coast of Guangzhou traditionally celebrated Renri, the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, by feasting on their catches. The practice of eating raw fish in thinly sliced strips can be traced back to ancient China through the raw fish or meat dish known as kuai (膾, kuài). However the present form of yusheng is believed to have started in Chaozhou and Shantou as far back as the Southern Song Dynasty.
There is also a legend regarding its origin. It was believed that in south China, a young man and his girlfriend found themselves stranded by bad weather at a temple with nothing to eat, but they managed to catch a carp. Chancing upon a bottle of vinegar, they added this to the stripped carp and found it quite appetising.
In Malaya's colonial past, migrants imported this tradition; porridge stalls sold a raw fish dish which is believed to have originated in Jiangmen, Guangdong province that consisted of fish, turnip and carrot strips, which was served with condiments of oil, vinegar and sugar that were mixed in by customers.
Eating Yu Sheng during Chinese New Year is a cultural activity for Chinese living in Singapore and Malaysia, but not so much in other Chinese-populated countries such as Hong Kong, where the practice is almost unheard of.
There was a controversy between Singapore and Malaysia regarding the origins of this dish. It was said that a restaurant (陆祯记) in Seremban, Malaysia first refined this dish from a Cantonese dish and sold it during Lunar New Year around 1940s. However, the son of the chef acknowledged that it is hard to dispute the "ownership" of the dish. This dish has been declared a Malaysian heritage food by the Malaysian Department of National Heritage. One thing is certain though, that this dish has its roots deep in the Southern part of China. 
It was also said to be created by 4 master chefs in 1964 in a restaurant kitchen in Singapore, then part of Malaysia. It made its debut during Lunar New Year of 1964 in Singapore's Lai Wah Restaurant (Established in Sept. 1963). [] The 4 master chefs were Than Mui Kai (Tham Yu Kai, co-head chef of Lai Wah Restaurant), Lau Yoke Pui (co-head chef of Lai Wah Restaurant), Hooi Kok Wai (founder of Dragon-Phoenix Restaurant, established on 8 April 1963) and Sin Leong (founder of Sin Leong Restaurant) who, together created that as a symbol of prosperity and good health amongst the Chinese. All four Chefs were named as the "Four Heavenly Culinary Kings" of Singapore some 40 years ago for their culinary prowess and ingenuity.
In the 1970s, Lai Wah Restaurant started the modern-day method of serving yu sheng with a pre-mixed special sauce comprising plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil - instead of customers mixing inconsistently-concocted sauce.
Ingredients and their symbolism
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When putting the yu sheng on the table, New Year greetings are offered. Some of the phrases commonly used are:
- 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”
The fish is added - its Mandarin word, "魚" corresponds to a homophone of it "余" meaning "abundance", thus 年年有余 nian nian you yu, “abundance through the year”. Pomelo or lime (大利, dali) is added to the fish, adding luck and auspicious value (大吉大利 da ji da li, meaning “good luck and smooth sailing”). Pepper is then dashed over in the hope of attracting more money and valuables. 招财进宝 Zhao Cai Jin Bao meaning “Attract wealth and treasures” Then oil is poured out, circling the ingredients and encouraging money to flow in from all directions - referring to 一本万利 yi ben wan li, meaning “make 10,000 times of profit with your capital”, and 财源广进 cai yuan guang jin meaning “numerous sources of wealth”
Carrots are added indicating blessings of good luck: the first word in the compound word representing the ingredient, "红萝卜" (hongluobo), 红 (hong) has a homophone in 鸿 referring to 鸿运当头 hong yun dang tou meaning “good luck is approaching”. Shredded green radish is later added symbolising eternal youth - 青春常驻 qing chun chang zhu, “forever young”. After which the shredded white radish is added - prosperity in business and promotion at work (风生水起 feng sheng shui qi - “progress at a fast pace”, 步步高升 bu bu gao sheng - “reaching higher level with each step”).
The condiments are finally added. First, peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish, symbolizing a household filled with gold and silver (金银满屋 jin yin man wu, meaning “household filled with gold and silver”). Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business (生意兴隆 sheng yi xing long, meaning “prosperity for the business”) Yu Sheng sauce, usually made from plum sauce, is generously drizzled over everything - a reference to 甜甜蜜蜜 tian tian mi mi, meaning “may life always be sweet” Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows is then added with wishes that literally the whole floor would be filled with gold (满地黄金 man di huang jin, “floor full of gold”).
Modern version of the dish
The yusheng had fish served with daikon (white radish), carrots, red pepper (capsicum), turnips, red pickled ginger, sun-dried oranges, key lime leaves, coriander, chilli, jellyfish, chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, Chinese shrimp crackers (or fried dried shrimp), five spice powder and other ingredients, laced with a sauce using plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil, for a total of 27 ingredients. Originally, the dish used raw wolf herring, although salmon was later offered as an alternative due to said species' growing popularity with customers.
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. Some would consume it on Renri, the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, although in practice 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).
The base ingredients are first served. The leader amongst the diners or the restaurant server proceeds to add ingredients such as the fish, the crackers and the sauces while saying "auspicious wishes" (吉祥话 jíxiáng huà) as each ingredient is added, typically related to the specific ingredient being added. For example, phrases such as niánnián yŏuyú (年年有余; "may there be abundance year after year") are uttered as the fish is added, as the Chinese word for "surplus" or "abundance" (余 yú) sounds the same as the Chinese word for "fish" (鱼 yú).
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, or simply "lo hei, lo hei" (撈起, 撈起 pinyin: lāoqǐ, lāoqǐ meaning "scoop it up, scoop it up"). 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.
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- Ref : Sin Chew Jit Poh 27 Jan 1979 Page 11 YUAN publisher = Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations date = 2003-02-01
- "Recipe: DIY Homemade Yu Sheng Sauce for Chinese New Year". The Moonberry Blog. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yusheng.|
- Interactive Virtual Reality – Process of Lo Hei
- Jack Tsen-Ta Lee, A Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English – lo hei
- Jack Tsen-Ta Lee, A Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English – yusheng
- A recipe for yusheng
- DIY Spring Toss Yusheng recipe
- How to toss Yee Sang (video)
- Yusheng Ingredients Meaning