kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake

As I mentioned in Wednesday's post on 生 (shēng/raw), one dish often eaten on the seventh day of Chinese New Year celebrations is 魚生 (yú shēng), or raw fish salad. This custom is perhaps associated more with the Chinese diaspora (particularly in Malaysia and Singapore) than with the mainland itself, and it's also a relatively recent invention (from the 1960s), but since I love raw fish I wanted to post about it anyway.

The Wall Street Journal has a nice overview of 魚生 written by Robyn Eckhardt of Eating Asia. As Robyn explains, the name of the dish is pronounced exactly the same way as the phrase 餘升 (yú shēng), which means something along the lines of "increased abundance".

魚生 essentially consists of strips of raw fish (perhaps most often salmon) combined with various finely-shredded vegetables (carrot, daikon, etc), some crispy bits (crackers, deep-fried dough crisps, or deep-fried crispy noodles), and a sweet-and-sour dressing. What makes it particularly special is the method of serving it — ingredients are added one at a time to a large platter in the middle of the dining table, with an auspicious saying recited for each one, and then all the diners take their chopsticks and toss the salad in a group effort to mix it up before eating. According to Wikipedia, the higher in the air each person tosses the salad, the greater the increase in their fortunes over the coming year.

Noob Cook has not only a recipe for 魚生, but also a list of the auspicious sayings associated with each ingredient; this list is in Chinese characters only, but see the bottom of this Singaporean article on 魚生 for a list in pinyin and English. Sunflower also has a 魚生 recipe.

If you don't want to do all the shredding yourself, you may be able to buy a "kit" which has the ingredients pre-shredded; here's a photo of a yú shēng stall in Singapore, with the characters 魚生 visible on its banner (the others being 發財, which I mentioned in last week's post on 羅漢齋/luó hàn zhāi/Buddha's delight).

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.


December 2012


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