Restaurants enjoy booming business this CNY, some see Chinese tourists wanting to try lo hei

Restaurants enjoy booming business this CNY, some see Chinese tourists wanting to try lo hei
PHOTO: AsiaOne

Those who celebrate Chinese New Year would be aware that Friday (Feb 16) is the seventh day of the first lunar month, which is also known as "everyman's birthday". 

On this day, Singaporeans would often celebrate with the tossing of yusheng, which is a salad dish typically made up of shredded vegetables, raw fish, crispy fried biscuits and a variety of sauces. 

Because of this practice, which is called lo hei, companies usually choose this day to hold banquets and as a result, many Chinese restaurants are booked out during this period, reported Shin Min Daily News on Feb 15. 

Chinese tourists come to experience lo hei

According to government site Roots, Yusheng was first introduced to Singapore in the 1930s by Cantonese and Teochew immigrants from China

It started out as a simple dish consisting of raw wolf herring, mixed with soy sauce, vinegar, peanut oil, pickled shallots and shredded vegetables. 

Over time, the salad evolved to suit Singaporeans' tastebuds, and local chefs started experimenting to create their own renditions. 

In 1964, four chefs at Lai Wah Restaurant came up with a seven-coloured raw fish salad. 

Some historical references say that they had asked diners to pair the yusheng with auspicious phrases and because the dish was so big and difficult to mix, diners started standing on their seats to help waiters toss the salad, which eventually became a unique ritual to Singapore called lo hei. 

Speaking to Shin Min Daily News, Andrew Tjioe, the president and CEO of Tung Lok Group, shared that after Singapore and China implemented the 30-day mutual visa exemption, many Chinese tourists have come to Singapore to travel and visit relatives.

While here, they're also taking the chance to experience our unique lo hei culture for themselves. 

"More than 20 of the Tung Lok Group's restaurants are fully booked almost every day," Andrew shared with the Chinese daily. 

"Many Chinese tourists will also go out of their way to experience the atmosphere of lo hei. It's expected that the demand for fish on the seventh day of the Lunar New Year will be greater than on New Year's Eve."

In an interview with Shin Min, a tourist surnamed Cai, who hails from Shanghai, shared that she visited a Tung Lok Seafood branch to try lo hei for the first time with a friend. 

"I think lo hei has very good cultural meaning and a sense of ritual," said Cai, who added that she had applied for her visa in advance to celebrate Chinese New Year in Singapore. 

Many Chinese restaurants seeing high demand

Tung Lok Group isn't the only establishment in Singapore experiencing a surge in bookings. 

A spokesperson from Crystal Jade Group told the Chinese daily that the restaurant's lunch reservations on Feb 16 have increased significantly as compared to the previous few days of Chinese New Year. 

Most of these bookings are usually for corporate banquets. 

"Judging from the situation over the past few days, the sales of yusheng have exceeded our expectations and based on experience, many customers will come to our restaurant to buy yusheng on the same day," shared the spokesperson. 

Long Beach Seafood Restaurant shared the same sentiments, noting that they only have three tables left at their IMM branch for the seventh day of the Lunar New Year. 

Apart from restaurants, supermarkets like Don Don Donki are also seeing a high demand for raw fish.

In fact, sales for sashimi platters on the seventh day of Lunar New Year were 30 per cent higher than that of the previous days, a Don Don Donki spokesperson told Shin Min. 

ALSO READ: Going overboard? Video sparks discussion on lo hei tradition and whether some are 'wasting food' 

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