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Cook up a storm this CNY #1: Yu Sheng

Cook up a storm this CNY #1: Yu Sheng

Chinese New Year is approaching and you know what that means: It's time to treat our tastebuds to some festive eats. But this year, instead of racking your brain to find the “perfect” dish to order, why not do it yourself?

We've selected eight delicious recipes you can prepare. These are taken straight from the cookbooks we have on our shelves, and we're starting with this CNY staple, yu sheng, or raw fish salad, from How to Cook Everything Singaporean by Denise Fletcher.

Yu sheng was invented in the 1960s by the “Four Heavenly Kings” of the culinary world in Singapore: Lau Yoke Put, Tham Yui Kai, Sin Leong and Hooi Kok Wai. Used in the lo hei, or "prosperity toss", this mix of julienned vegetables and raw fish is the star of any CNY meal.

Denise, the executive chef Quentin's Bar and Restaurant, says: "The tradition of serving yu sheng at Chinese New Year is relatively young in Singapore, but for such a recent cultural and culinary development, it has really caught on. The whole idea behind serving and eating yu sheng is to invite fortune and prosperity; all the ingredients are believed to be auspicious in one way or another. But ... taste is not sacrificed." 

More traditional versions of yu sheng feature slices of mackerel or wolf herring, but Denise uses salmon in her recipe. Here's how she makes it...  


(recipe on page 375)

PREP 40 minutes, COOK 15 minutes, SERVES 6–8

What you need
For the dressing
Plum sauce, 150ml
Sesame oil, 1 tbsp
Makrut lime leaves (ribs discarded and leaves finely shredded), 3
Thin, peeled ginger slices, finely shredded, 2
Juice of 2 calamansi limes (or to taste)
Sugar, 2 tsp
Cooled boiled water (enough for desired consistency)

For the salad
Carrot (peeled and cut into long, thin shreds), 1

White radish (peeled and cut into long, thin shreds), 0.5
Green radish 
(peeled and cut into long, thin shreds), 0.5
Small cucumber (deseeded and cut into long, thin shreds), 1
Red pickled ginger (cut into long, thin shreds), 30g
Ice-cold water (enough to soak the vegetables)
Pomelo (peeled and broken into sacs), 3 segments
Pickled papaya (rinsed, dried and cut into long, thin shreds), 100g
Fresh salmon fillet (very thinly sliced), 200g
Abalone (very thinly sliced), 100g
5-spice powder, 1 tsp
White pepper powder, 1 tsp
Cinnamon powder, 1 tsp
White sesame seeds, toasted, 2 tbsp
Roasted peanuts, chopped, 60g
Pok Chui Crackers, 2 handfuls

How to make
Prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients, stirring well until they are thoroughly combined. Cover and set aside. 

Prepare separate bowls for each vegetable. Individually soak all the shredded vegetables in ice-cold water for 10–15 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid. Be gentle so you don’t break the shreds into shorter lengths.

Arrange the vegetables, pomelo sacs and pickled papaya in individual piles around the edge of a large platter.

Arrange the salmon and abalone slices decoratively in the middle of the platter.

Bring the platter to the dining table along with the sesame seeds, peanuts, crackers and dressing. Sprinkle all the ingredients evenly with the 5-spice, white pepper and cinnamon powder.

Pour the dressing evenly over all the ingredients on the platter. Scatter the sesame seeds, peanuts and crushed crackers. Invite everyone to toss the salad as high as possible, preferably 7 times, with their chopsticks, amid spirited shouts of “Lo hei!” or “Huat ah!” to invite good fortune and prosperity unto all present, for the year ahead.

When the ingredients are thoroughly combined, invite everyone to help themselves to the mixed salad. Eat, enjoy, repeat a year later!


Buy Denise Fletcher's How to Cook Everything Singaporean or any cookbook by Epigram Books and get 20% OFF your purchase. Offer ends Feb 12, so don't delay, get yours today.



(yu sheng pic from: Tung Lok/Facebook)

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