Friday, February 08, 2008

Yee Sang or Yu Sheng, a Raw Fish Salad

Fishermen along the coast of Guangzhou traditionally celebrated Renri, the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, by feasting on their catches. This practice may have started in Chaozhou and Shantou as far back as the Southern Song Dynasty. 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.

The modern yusheng dish originated in Malaya in what is modern Singapore during Chinese New Year in 1963 and was invented by master chefs Hooi Kok Wai, Lau Yoke Pui, Sin Leong and Than Mui Kai, commonly known as the four 'Heavenly Kings' of Singapore's restaurant scene of the 1960s and 1970s. The taste of the original raw fish dish was standardized with a special sauce using plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil, and the fish was served with carrots, chilli, turnips, limes, jellyfish, red pickled ginger, sun-dried oranges and other ingredients, turning this simple dish into an exquisite salad with 27 ingredients. The original dish used raw mackerel, although in deference to the popular wishes of customers, salmon was later offered as an alternative. Initially intended as a promotional gimmick to drum up business to Hooi, Lau, Sin and Than's respective restaurants, this dish rapidly became popular all over Singapore and has since spread to Malaysia and Hong Kong as well.

Since then, yusheng has become a staple Chinese New Year dish in Singapore as well as in Chinese communities in Indonesia and Malaysia and is typically available only during this festive season. It is also popular in Hong Kong. Read more here

IF YOU love yusheng, the raw fish salad that the Chinese eat during the Chinese New Year period, you have this man to thank for it. Chef Hooi Kok Wai, 68, was one of the four 'Heavenly Kings' of Singapore's restaurant scene in the 1970s who created the dish. Read more here

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raw fish in Guangzhou could be different with all the fusion cooking going on nowadays as I discovered recently there. My friends scanned the menu and made some orders, ending by pointing to one pictured eel main dish. That came last n it was not cooked as we expected but raw eel on ice, come with genuine wasabi with sweetish bean sauce (not exactly Japanese's). I took two bites of the crunchy meat n left the rest for my adventurous buddies :)

10:41 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi anon,

thank you for your interesting comment. I do not know, Yee Sang s served in China. And raw eel!!!

3:51 PM  

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