The founding members of Slow Food (Singapore) celebrated the Lunar New Year on Friday, 7th February 2014, with the traditional tossing of the Prosperity Raw Fish Salad (Yu Sheng) and a dinner of traditional dishes at the Dragon Phoenix Restaurant, operated by Masterchef Hooi Kok Wai who is recognised as being one of the four original Masterchefs in Singapore who created the “Original Singapore Yu Sheng“.
Yu Sheng is a dish that’s most symbolic of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. Many of us feel that this multi-coloured creation comprising mounds of vegetables, nuts, pickles and raw salmon, laced with plum sauce, should be served year round. It is after all one of the best Made in Singapore creations!
Yu Sheng was conceived in 1963 by the Four Heavenly Kings of Singaporean Cantonese cuisine – the late Tham Yew Kai, the late Lau Yoke Pui, Sin Leong and Hooi Kok Wai. These four chefs refined the recipe for this celebratory dish, which originally called for sliced ikan parang. Today, salmon is widely used. Some top hotel restaurants have even luxed up the dish with sliced abalone or lobster.
In an interview in The Straits Times, Chef Hooi, owner of Dragon Phoenix restaurant, said: “A good Yu Sheng is all about proportion. Too much sauce and the ingredients will clump together. Too little and there’s no taste. One way to judge is to check the bottom of the plate after you’ve tossed. It should be dry.”
To kick off, the waiter brings to our table generous portions of the ingredients, each symbolic of wealth, luck, abundance and prosperity. He then proceeds to mix the roasted crushed nuts and toasted sesame seeds with thick, tangy sweet plum sauce. This mixture forms the base of the yu sheng and binds the whole dish perfectly.
Next, he adds mounds of shredded veggies, colourful pickles, jellyfish and thinly sliced ikan parang to the platter and lightly tosses the mixture. This is done so that the dressing coats everything nicely. This yu sheng is also scattered with aromatic kaffir lime leaves and ginger – which we think is really essential to brighten up the whole dish.
And finally, the “assembled” dish is ready for some serious tossing coupled with auspicious phrases and good wishes. “Huat Ah!”
Did we like it? The answer was pretty much unanimous. It was THE best Yu Sheng in town. After all, this is the original stuff!