JOHOR BARU- Seafood restaurants here are coming up with alternatives to replace the traditional raw freshwater fish slices used in the yee sang, a quintessential Chinese New Year dish made up of colourful ingredients and condiments.
Adopting from the popular Japanese dish, Kong Inn Seafood Restaurant owner and head chef Aun Chin Poh decided to serve crispy strips of salmon skin with his version of the yee sang at his outlet in Jalan Sutera this year.
He said the salmon skin was sourced from Japanese food suppliers and dried under the sun before being cut into strips and deep-fried.
"The crispy strips are then scattered on a bed of salad and nuts to be tossed during reunion dinners," he said yesterday.
He said Western food outlets usually disposed of the salmon skin but it was a valued ingredient in Japanese cuisine.
Aun added that his restaurants also offered other yee sang alternatives such as jellyfish and fresh snow pears, mangoes and jackfruit.
Tan Chiak Moh from Mei Do Restaurant said the restaurant usually used fresh salmon as yee sang toppings but offered customers a choice of abalone slices this year.
He said this came after Singapore's National Environment Agency banned the sale of raw freshwater fish dishes at all food outlets last year due to an outbreak of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection.
The ban was called in the island republic last year after about 150 people, who ate raw freshwater fish, were infected by the bacteria, bringing the total of those infected for the year to 355 compared to the 150 cases reported from 2011 and 2014.
Saltwater fish is not included in the ban.
Johor Baru Chefs Association chairman John Ang said it all boiled down to how the fresh fish, especially those that were meant to be served raw or as sashimi, were handled and kept to ensure freshness and hygiene.
Ang, who is also the executive director of Grand Straits Garden Seafood Restaurants, said for their Chinese New Year eve reunion dinner, customers could choose vegetarian raw fish slices if they did not fancy raw salmon.
He said his two restaurants in Danga Bay received quite a number of Singaporean customers for the reunion dinner, prompting them to offer an alternative yee sang topping to address their concerns.