Alright so, Yu-Sheng – it is a salad dish comprising thin slices of raw fish and various seasoning that are mixed together. Diners will then toss the ingredients and shout, “Lo Hei!” while they are at it.

But where did this dish come from?

This dish goes way back for more than 2,000 years in China. The earliest known written documentation of this dish is said to be 823 BCE during the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BCE – 256 BCE). It is said to be popular after the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220CE) that Chinese scholars such as Cao Zhi wrote poems praising the dish.

Lohei

How did it end up here in Singapore?

Well, here’s a version of it.

In the 19th century, there were many dialects of Chinese in Singapore. Thus, this dish was brought to Singapore with the migration of Cantonese and Teochew people. It was said that this dish was to be served on the seventh day of Chinese New Year, also known as renri (everyman’s birthday).

So rightfully there are two types of Yu Sheng in Singapore – Cantonese and Teochew.

For the Cantonese, Yu Sheng is eaten on the seventh day of the Lunar New Year – the meal is commonly shared amongst businessman to ensure a prosperous year ahead.

For Teochews, the dish is known as husay, eaten throughout the new year period.

The difference you may ask?

Well for Cantonese version – Thinly sliced raw fish is served with an array of vegetables and tossed together in a piquant sauce. Porridge may be served to wash down the taste of the raw fish

For the Teochew version – The fish is first air-dried before it is sliced, topped with sesame seeds and served with sliced vegetables and a sweet-and-sour sauce.

 

However, today the ritual of eating yusheng has evolved. Now, it involves all the people at the table tossing the salad and uttering auspicious phrases. The dish is deemed auspicious because of the homonymic meanings behind its ingredients. In other words, yusheng suggests blessings and good fortune for the new year. Yu is the homonym for “fish” and “abundance”, while Sheng means both “raw” and “life”. Together, yusheng implies “abundance of wealth and long life.”

So what does lo hei means?

In Cantonese dialect, “lo” implies  “tossing up good fortune” and “hei” means “to rise”.  So everyone at the table stands up and toss the salad an auspicious seven times with loud shouts of “lohei” and other other auspicious phrases such as “Huat Ah”!

Lohei_roots

Oh, also, they believe that the higher you toss the yusheng, the better your fotune! So this festive period, take your colleagues out to eat a nice yusheng, don’t forget to toss it as high as you can!

 

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