Chinese New Year falls on 31st January this year (just days away) and the ubiquitous Singaporean tradition of the Prosperity Toss, aka Yu Sheng, is making its appearance once again at Chinese restaurants and homes island-wide to celebrate this occasion. For the uninitiated, Yu Sheng is a salad that typically consists of strips of raw fish, mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. The main sauce is a sweet and sour-ish type using plum sauce, rice vinegar, kumquat paste and sesame oil. But in this article I am going to share how to make this sauce easily at home using just THREE ingredients. Yup, three.
The star ingredient I’m using for this easy but flavorful sauce is Orange Marmalade from FrezFruta. It isn’t a regular orange marmalade, it is sugar-free, preservative-free and also free of artificial coloring. And because every batch of FrezFruta Orange Marmalade has been prepared with 40% fruits, kids will love this. Elder folks such as parents and grandparents will be happy with this as well since it’s suitable for diabetics. I say this because even though in my family we don’t generally celebrate Chinese New Year, I have brought my parents out to have Yu Sheng at restaurants before and even though they enjoy it, they’re always cautious of the sugar content in the sauce.
Without further ado, this is how I use the jam to create Yu Sheng Sauce.
DIY Yu Sheng Sauce with FrezFruta
2 Tablespoons FrezFruta Orange Marmalade
Juice of 1 Lime
Pinch of Salt
Mix well into a small container. Add warm water by the teaspoonfuls to achieve a more fluid consistency if desired.
And that’s it. I told you it’s easy, didn’t I? It’s so easy that even your kid can make this, now there’s an idea to include the little ones in this yearly family-oriented ritual. Everyone will love this DIY Homemade Yu Sheng Sauce because it doesn’t give off that artificial, saccharine after-taste. The sweetness of the sauce is also mild enough such that it doesn’t overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.
Tip: In case you don’t already know, roll limes on the tabletop prior to cutting as it will make squeezing out its juices much easier.
I suppose there’s really no stopping anyone from using 3 tablespoons of the Orange Marmalade instead of two… it is sugar-free after all. Up to you. Anyway when you’re done making this sauce, set it aside while you assemble the rest of Yu Sheng ingredients.
The thing about Yu Sheng is that I always find the way it is served somewhat amusing. The ingredients that go into this salad aren’t exactly random and they have been picked for specific reasons. Every single item on the plate is meant to represent something auspicious.
When putting the Yu Sheng on the table, there’s a ritual where it’s accompanied by New Year greetings such as 恭喜发财 Gong Xi Fa Cai meaning “Congratulations for your wealth”, 万事如意 Wan Shi Ru Yi meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled” said verbally, followed by declarations of good wishes that are associated with what the ingredients symbolize. Do your best to project and maintain a lively, perky tone since this is a cheerful occasion.
….. Uhm, what else do you say?
See, this is why I need to blog about this and include the ingredients’ meanings and what you’re supposed to say during their assembly, so you and everybody else don’t end up standing around the dining table and staring at a plate of salad as a clueless group.
First, assemble a bed of green radish symbolising eternal youth.
You say: 青春常驻 Qing Chun Chang Zhu
Meaning “Forever young”.
Next, add a bed of white radish for prosperity in business and promotion at work.
You say: 风生水起 Feng Sheng Shui Qi, 步步高升 Bu Bu Gao Sheng
Meaning “Progress at a fast pace” and “Reaching higher level with each step”
Carrots are added indicating blessings of good luck.
You say: 鸿运当头 Hong Yun Dang Tou
Meaning “Good luck is approaching”.
Then, the pomelo or lime is added, to symbolize luck and auspicious value.
You say: 大吉大利 Da Ji Da Li
Meaning “Good luck and smooth sailing”.
Raw fish (usually salmon) is added, symbolising abundance and excess through the year.
You say: 年年有余 Nian Nian You Yu
Meaning “Abundance through the year”, as the word “fish” in Mandarin also sounds like “Abundance”.
Pepper is then dashed over in the hope of attracting more money and valuables.
You say: 招财进宝 Zhao Cai Jin Bao
Meaning “Attract wealth and treasures”.
Then oil is poured out, circling the ingredients and encouraging money to flow in from all directions.
You say: 一本万利 Yi Ben Wan Li, 财源广进 Cai Yuan Guang Jin
Meaning “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital” and “Numerous sources of wealth”.
Peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish, symbolizing a household filled with gold and silver.
You say: 金银满屋 Jin Yin Man Wu
Meaning “Household filled with gold and silver”.
Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business.
You say: 生意兴隆 Sheng Yi Xing Long
Meaning “Prosperity for the business”.
Drizzle the Yu Sheng sauce generously over your salad.
You say: 甜甜蜜蜜 Tian Tian Mi Mi
Meaning “May life always be sweet”.
Last but not least and my personal fave:
Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows are then added with wishes that literally the whole floor would be filled with gold.
You say: 满地黄金 Man Di Huang Jin
Meaning “Floor full of gold”.
The list above is what a typical Yu Sheng is made up of, but there are of course other stuff that you can add – such as jellyfish, shredded preserved orange peel, candied ginger, red pickled ginger, etc. One year I had Yu Sheng that didn’t have raw fish but roasted Japanese eel (unagi) instead; that was yum. That same year I also had another Yu Sheng lovinly homemade at a friend’s house and topped with gold leaf – ooooohhh, faaaaaaaaaancy.
Now that the assembly of this dish is complete, everyone at the table stand up and on cue, proceed to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying various auspicious wishes (again). These wishes I will try to compile at some point so come back to my blog again come the next Chinese New Year. :”P
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT even think of letting any inauspicious or woeful words, statements or sentiments spew out of your mouth. Remember, happy + perky + auspicious sayings only.
Let’s just stick your chopsticks into this salad and toss, toss, TOSS.
The happier and higher everyone toss, the more mess everyone will make… so if you’re an obsessively neat freak like me, this is the part when a silent panic attack set of by the thought of cleaning up afterwards will set in. It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the diner’s growth in fortunes, thus diners are expected to toss enthusiastically. As for me, I would need a couple shots beforehand to quieten my internal hysteria as I witness the dramatic mess splattering and torpedoing in every possible direction.
Mix the salad really, really well and have all those wonderful wishes you’ve just declared plus an abundance of good luck come flying towards you in the coming new year. Meanwhile I’d be thinking, there’s gotta be a way to control and contain the flying pieces of shredded radish and carrot, etc. I must invent something!- but hey, that’s just me.
HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEARRR!!! Gong Xi Fa Cai + Gung Hey Fat Choy and may you – AND ME! – have plenti-plenti-plentiful of CHOY (prosperity) galloping your way in this Year of the Horse. :) :) :)