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What you need to know about Yee Sang

Malaysian and Singaporean have our very own Chinese New Year traditions aside from eating reunion dinner and giving out ang paos. We celebrate the new year by tossing yee sang, in hopes of an auspicious and joyous year. It was a tradition on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year. Nowadays, almost everyday during the Chinese New Year, we see people tossing and posting it on social media. 


Yee Sang, also known as Yu Sheng in Singapore has another name of Prosperity Toss Salad. Every family has their own recipes for yee sang but it needs to be a combination of colorful finely cut or grated ingredients. 


Photo by SIA HONG KIAU/The Star

Ingredients 

Each ingredient has its own unique symbolism. The fish, often being raw salmon is the main ingredient of the dish, symbolizing abundance throughout the year. It is because “fish” and “abundance” both share the same pronunciation of “yu” in mandarin. The other common ingredients are pomelo, carrot, radish, pickled ginger, pepper, peanuts, sesame seeds.

The special sauce is a mixture of hoisin sauce, apricot or plum sauce, and honey to give it a sweet, tangy and savoury flavour. Some crackers will be added to give some crunchiness to the dish. 

Rituals and the ingredients’ symbolism

The tossing takes place before the meal starts. On a big round plate, one representative of the diners will need to place the ingredients one after one while saying some auspicious wishes related to the ingredients. As mentioned earlier, the ingredients can be different, based on the family recipes. Hence, there are no specific steps and auspicious wishes. 

RWSCooper suggested starting with adding the raw salmon while saying 年年有余(Nian Nian You Yu), meaning abundance year after year. Followed by carrot shreds and wishing everyone 鸿运当头 (Hong Yun Dang Tou) which bless everyone with good luck. Green and white radish shreds shall be added next with the wish of 青春永驻 (Qing Chun Yong Zhu) in hope of being youthful forever. Pepper and the five-spice powder shall then be sprinkled with the saying of 五福临门 (Wu Fu Lin Men) meaning may the five blessings descend upon you. Wishes related to good fortune and good luck like 招财进宝(Zhao Cai Jin Bao) and 大吉大利 (Da Ji Da Li) shall be stated while we drizzle fragrant sesame oil and lime juice. While adding a sweet flavour with plum sauce, the auspicious wish is 甜甜蜜蜜 (Tian Tian Mi Mi) wishing for a sweet and loving relationship. The final step is to add the cracker while saying 偏低黄金 (Pian Di Huang Jin) which is literally translated as may you find gold all over the streets as the crackers are often in gold colour. 

Then, it is followed by the most exciting part of yee sang ritual which is tossing. This is also known as the most instagrammable session. Everyone will join in with their pair of chopsticks to toss the ingredients up high into the air while saying “lo hei” out loud. “Lo hei” literally means scoop it up. The higher the toss is, it is believed that the new year will be better, filled with good luck and good fortune. Finally, everyone will take a portion of the salad and enjoy it as an appetizer. 

Photo by ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star


How is it different in 2021?

Since it is still under MCO 2.0, we are celebrating the Chinese new year 2021 while adhering to the SOP. Hence, it is going to be different from how we used to celebrate. 

SinChew Daily conducted a survey and reported nearly 60% of the respondents stated that they will skip the tossing tradition for this Chinese New Year. 

9.2% of the respondents said that they will continue with the tradition but will be wearing a mask and gloves as the precautionary measures, reported SinChew Daily. Hoteliers have seen an increase in yee sang order for the reunion dinner following the SOP revision on reunion dinner gathering, reported The Star.

Though the Chinese New Year celebrations are slightly different this year, we shall be grateful that we could still celebrate and meet our family members virtually with the assistance of technology. Get creative on how we could celebrate and enjoy the Chinese New Year and we shall look forward to the day we can reunite with our family and friends. 

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