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What Is Yusheng?

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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Yusheng is a colorful Chinese salad made primarily with raw fish and grated vegetables. Created in Singapore in 1964, yusheng is a traditional dish for the Chinese New Year mostly in Singapore and Malaysia. Usually considered an appetizer, the salad is symbolic of wealth, prosperity, and good luck. This dish is often eaten in a group and begins with the ritual lo hei, a set combining of ingredients and chanted phrases.

Vegetables used in yusheng are all julienned. A julienne cut consists of long thin strips that appear thickly grated. In order to julienne vegetables, a julienne slicer or a special vegetable peeler is necessary.

Since each food element in yusheng is symbolic of something, the color choices of the vegetables are important. Yams or radishes are died red and green with food coloring. White radishes are also included, as well as carrots and cucumbers. Pomela and red pickled ginger are added as well.

Traditionally, the fish served with yusheng is mackerel, but other fish, such as salmon sashimi or abalone, may be used instead. Always raw, fish is sliced into strips. Fish quality is extremely important when using raw fish in a dish since it does not undergo the cooking process to kill any bacteria or other dangerous additions that may be present in lower-quality fish.

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Flavoring for this salad also includes oils and spices. Plum sauce and olive oil are the liquid elements for the dressing. Chinese five-spice powder, ground white pepper, crushed peanuts, and toasted sesame seeds are all used as well. Deep fried wontons or crackers are also placed in the dish. These wontons always have a pillow shape and are fried to a golden color.

Ingredients are first plated separately, colorfully arranged on serving platters. Individuals place the ingredients on their own plates one at a time during the lo hei ceremony. The vegetables are placed first, followed by the spices, then the fish, and finally the sauce. After each addition a different Chinese phrase is said. When all the elements are on each person's plate, the salad is tossed for luck, using chop sticks, seven times, while another phrase is chanted.

Each element of yusheng represents something, and the phrases chanted while serving the salad emphasize these representations. Pomela and carrots symbolize luck, whereas the yam symbolizes youth. Prosperity in business is represented by oil, sesame seeds, and the white radishes. General wealth, specifically gold, are symbolized by the peanuts, pepper, and wontons. The fish stands for abundance.

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