Yu sheng: Lunar New Year Prosperity Salad
I discovered this fabulous salad recently when reading a story about celebrity chef Elizabeth Chong and why she had missed out on celebrating Chinese New Year for decades due to the White Australia Policy.
Chong’s family migrated to Australia in the 1930s but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the nation began to celebrate multicultural voices.
“In the last ten years, I’ve had a new sense of reward, because I have seen migrants and particularly Asian migrants coming from Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and mainland China come up and thank me, because when they first arrived in this country, they felt a sense of not belonging, of alienation.
“And then they see this Chinese woman talking about Chinese culture and Chinese food on television. And what’s more, being able to speak and express herself in English, but being a Chinese person. That gives them a sense of connection or [a sense of] starting to feel a little bit more at home in a strange country.”
About this Recipe
By: Sheridan Rogers
Elizabeth Chong talked about this celebratory salad a couple of years ago on Studio 10 and explained that it is common in Singapore and Malaysia though not in China. A combination of colourful strands of vegetables, fresh slices of raw fish and condiments tossed together with a plum sauce dressing, each of the ingredients has an auspicious meaning.
According to What To Cook Today, Yu sheng (魚生) itself means raw fish. “This yu sheng has the same pronunciation with the other yu sheng (余升), which means an increase in abundance which is why yu sheng is considered one of the auspicious foods for Chinese new year and represents prosperity and abundance.”
Serves 2 -4 (easily multiplied to serve 16 -20))
- small daikon radish, 1, peeled
- carrots, 1 – 2, peeled
- lebanese cucumber, 1, washed
- red cabbage, 1 small wedge
- green onions (shallots), 4, washed
- large ripe mango, 1
- pomelo or pink grapefruit, 1
- sashimi-quality salmon, 100g – 150g, sliced
vermicelli noodles, 60g, soaked in boiling water
- beetroot juice, approx 2 – 3 tablespoons
- sesame seeds, 1/3 cup
- cashews, 1/2 cup
- candied winter melon, 1/3 cup (optional)
- birds-eye chilli, 1 -2, finely choppped (optional)
- plum sauce, 1/3 cup
- hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon (optional)
- toasted sesame oil, 1 -2 teaspoons
- fresh lemon or lime juice, a squeeze
- wonton wrappers, 8 -10
- vegetable oil
To prepare the vegetables: I used a spiraliser for the daikon, carrots and cucumber but if you don’t have one, you can cut the vegetables into long thin strips or use a mandoline as in this video.
Shred the red cabbage finely. Slice the green onions on the diagonal. Make sure to wash the vegetables well and drain them on paper towels. They can be stored individually in plastic containers until you’re ready to assemble the salad.
For the pomelo or pink grapefruit, slice off the skin and white pith. Cut out the segments using a small sharp knife.
Slice the cheeks off the mangoes, carefully remove the skin, then slice flesh into long thin strips.
For the vermicelli, drain well then toss again with beetroot juice until stained all over and drain again.
For the condiments: toast the sesame seeds and cashews seeds on separate baking trays in a moderate oven (350F/160C fan-forced) for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove, cool and place in separate small white dishes.
Cut the candied winter melon into small pieces – you will need about 1/3 cup. Place in a small white dish.
Place the chillies, if using, into a small white dish.
Stir the plum sauce together with the hoisin sauce (if using) and the sesame oil, thin with a little water and place in a small white dish. Add a squeeze of lime or lemon juice to taste.
Cut each of the wonton wrappers into four squares and fry in 2cm deep hot vegetable oil – watch carefully as they brown quickly. Drain on paper towels.
To Assemble: Place all the vegetables, fruits and salmon on a large platter in an attractive pattern. Surround the platter with the various condiments in small white dishes.
The idea is for guests to pick up individiual items with chopsticks all at the same time, toss them with the dressing and then toss them high in the air over the platter to celebrate the new year. “The higher you toss, the higher your luck,” says Elizabeth.