In a virtual event held a day before Chinese New Year, noted chef Jereme Leung, known for his restaurants serving modern and refined reinterpretation of the traditional Chinese cuisine, tossed and talked about the recent occasion’s popular salad, Yee Sang.
Yee Sang or Yu Sheng or Prosperity Salad is a raw fish salad popularly eaten during Chinese New Year. Each ingredient of this multicolored dish symbolizes (based on their names) abundance, luck, fortune, happiness, and other blessings and well-wishes.
Ingredients are mixed together and tossed by those who will eat it—as high as they can—while chanting auspicious New Year’s wishes: xin nian kuai le (Happy New Year), xi qi yang yang (joy is in the air), and gong xi fa cai (may you be rich and wealthy).
Yes, you are bound to make a mess, because according to tradition, the higher the toss, the better your year will be. Or at the very least, it’s a great way to ensure every bit is coated by the sweet and sour plum sauce.
Chef Leung’s restaurant here in the Philippines, China Blue by Jereme Leung located in Conrad Manila, offered Yee Sang for takeaway for those who wanted to attract the best things it symbolizes or to just enjoy a rather refreshing and flavorful salad that’s as delicious as it is pleasing to look at.
But according to him, this dish which has become associated with a Chinese celebration, is not as popular in China as it is in Southeast Asia.
“The habit of eating Yee Sang became first popular in Southeast Asia and was only imported to China in recent years,” said Chef Leung.
The dish, he said, was inspired by a traditional raw fish salad in Guangdong province and was developed and introduced in Malaysia in the 1940s.
It was then modified by four master chefs (Tham Mui Kai, Lau Yoke Pui, Hooi Kok Wai, and Sin Leong) in Singapore in the ‘60s to what we know of today.
The contemporary Yee Sang usually consists of fish (usually salmon), carrots, green radish, white radish, pomelo or lime juice, sesame seeds, ground peanuts, pepper, Chinese Five-Spice powder, fried crisps, peanut oil, sesame oil, and plum sauce.
In his demonstration, Chef Leung first prepared the sauce by mixing peanut oil, pepper, Five-Spice, lime juice, and plum sauce. He then put the salmon to the salad, topped it with fried crisps, and drizzled the sauce before tossing them together.
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