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With the New Year fast approaching, there is only one thing on every food-lover’s mind – Yu Sheng! This dish is a requisite at every reunion dinner table for its symbolism of good fortune.

Yu Sheng

FInd out the components of Yu Sheng and its meanings

The Origins Of Yu Sheng

The tradition of eating thinly sliced raw fish strips began in ancient China where fishermen would feast on their catch on the seventh day of the Lunar New Year. In the colonial days of Singapore, local porridge stalls sold a simple dish of raw fish, turnip and carrot strips drizzled with vinegar, oil and sugar. It wasn’t until 1964 that Master Chef Than Mui Kai created the modernised Yu Sheng that Singaporeans have come to love. A dish symbolising prosperity and good health for the Chinese, the original Yu Sheng consists of 27 auspicious ingredients such as:

  • Lime and pomelo – good luck and good fortune (大吉大利)
  • Pepper – the scattering of treasures (招财进宝)
  • Sesame oil – wealth flowing in from all directions (财源广进)
  • Shredded carrots and red pickled ginger – brings good luck with their red colour (鸿运当头)
  • Shredded green radish and Chinese parsley – everlasting youth (青春常驻)
  • Shredded white radish – progress at work (步步高升)
  • Chopped peanuts – signifies gold and silver (金银满屋)
  • Sesame seeds – flourishing and prosperous business (生意兴隆)
  • Deep fried flour crisps – representative of golden pillows filled in your home (偏地黄金)
  • Sweet plum sauce – to have sweet relationships with your loved ones (甜甜蜜蜜)
  • Five spice powder – symbolises the arrival of the five fortunes (五福临门)
  • Raw fish slices – signifies abundance (年年有余)

Diners would gather around the table and say auspicious wishes as they toss the Yu Sheng as high as possible to represent their desired growth in fortunes.

Fancy variations of Yu Sheng

Yu Sheng has been given many modern twists over the recent years, the most noticeable being the change from the traditional raw mackerel slices to raw salmon due to the popularity of Japanese salmon sashimi. There are also many restaurants that replace the fish with lavish ingredients such as raw ebi (Japanese sweet prawn), scallop, lobster or abalone.

With the multicultural nature of Singapore, Yu Sheng has also taken on international flavours. Restaurants are serving the dish with the gustatory traits of Thai, Japanese, Indian and Peranakan cuisines. Halal and vegetarian versions are also available in the market to meet any diner’s requirements.

Go to page two to find the best places for Yu sheng this year in Singapore

Living in Singapore