No Chinese New Year dinner is complete without this fun — and delicious — tradition.
Whether you’ve been invited to a friends for Lunar New Year or just plan to enjoy a traditional meal out, you’ll likely take part in the “prosperity toss” (Yu Sheng or Yee Sang).
According to Chinese beliefs, RenRi is the day of Humankind. Goddess Nu Wa spent six days creating animals (from mud by some accounts) and on the seventh, she created humans. To honour and commemorate this day, the Chinese community participates in Yu Sheng on the the seventh day of Chinese New Year.
I was lucky enough to be a part of a prosperity toss at a recent dim sum lunch and was surprised, not by how much fun it was to toss salad up with wild abandon (especially when you don’t have to clean up the mess!), but by how good the salad tasted.
Yu Sheng is made from all kinds of pickled vegetables cut into thin slices (all of similar size). Some of the more elaborate salads will have up to 20 different types of vegetables. Most commonly, it will have carrots, cabbage, white radish, turnip, ginger, and cucumber. The ingredients are served on a large serving platter along with piles of sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, (sometimes) crushed crackers, spices, and sauce primarily made from plum sauce, vinegar, sesame oil. Raw salmon slices are also added for abundance and prosperity.
Each participant gets long chopsticks and is invited to toss the salad high into the air and shout, “Loh Hei” (toss high)! You’re encouraged to be both loud and messy, shouting blessing of good luck and wishes. Popular phrases include, “Nian Nian You Yu” meaning “abundance through the year,” “Qing Chun Chang Zhu” meaning “forever young”).
At more traditional prosperity tosses, you’re likely to hear specific phrases when certain vegetables are added because each of the ingredients has special meaning. For example, white radish stands for prosperity in business and work.
Make the effort to join in this uniquely Singaporean tradition (it is arguably more popular here than in mainland China)!
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
By Kathleen Siddell, January 2016 / Updated January 2020
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