This year of the Dragon, I’ve had 6 Yu Shengs. Surprisingly, the Yu Shengs at the well-known restaurants like Wah Lok (Carlton Hotel) tasted weird and plasticky, while the ones at the coffee shops tasted so much better. If you don’t know what a Yu Sheng is, it’s a Chinese New Year dish popular only in Singapore and Malaysia, invented by local chefs who wanted a dish that people can get together to toss and wish luck for the new year.
The salad-like dish is typically made of shredded carrots and mixed together with peanuts, pomelo, green and yellow stuff. I never pay attention because by the time you’re done tossing, you can’t quite tell what is in it. pepper and sauces are served separately. The server is supposed to throw these ingredients in while saying a few words of well wishes that goes with the said ingredient. Sweet plum sauce signifies a sweet year ahead. Raw fish, usually salmon, means a prosperous year. the orange crackers symbolises the gold ingot of ancient China, so that means great wealth. once the ingredients are thrown in, everyone at the table sticks their chopsticks in and tosses the salad way up high. At one dinner toss, everyone was so enthusiastic that my chopstick flew to the other end of the table.
Some tables I’ve watched toss the Yu Sheng in a discreet civilised manner. The proper way to toss Yu Sheng is to toss it high, make a hella mess and a lot of noise. Having been with the sales team for 3 years, every Yu Sheng that I’ve had with them starts off with a resounding HUAT AHH!!! shouted by 25 sales people. then everyone starts shouting their wishes. It is believed that the higher you toss, the more likely the chance of getting what you wish. Most people wish for money, good health. some people want to strike lottery (Toto or 4D). Others wish for marriage. some wish for babies. a few years ago when someone shouted MORE BABIES AH! another colleague and myself quickly backed off with our chopsticks so we don’t get “hit” with the baby wish.
I’ve never celebrated Chinese New Year in Malaysia before so i’m not sure if the Yu Sheng I had in Malacca was a Malaysian variety, a Malaccan one or just a restaurant special. Instead of the usual shredded orange and vegetables, they’ve replaced it all with fruit. Instead of the sweet sauce, they replaced it with mayonnaise. So it felt more like a fruit salad than anything else, which was the strangest thing I’ve ever eaten. we couldn’t toss high anything so instead we overturned the fruits on the platter with our spoons. very weird.