From potluck dish to delicacy

When prosperity yusheng made its debut at Dragon Phoenix Restaurant in 1964, the raw fish salad did not take off immediately as people were not used to the way it was served.

That version of yusheng - a new item then - came with a sweet and sour sauce that gave the dish a unified taste, along with colourful ingredients symbolising prosperity in Chinese culture.

Until 1964, yusheng was a simple fare served with few ingredients.

Commonly sold at fish porridge stalls, it was often a trial-and-error potluck as customers added condiments such as vinegar, oil and sugar on their own to flavour the dish.

Dragon Phoenix's Mr Hooi Kok Wah, 76, one of the "four heavenly kings" of Singapore's Chinese cuisine, who transformed the dish to boost their restaurant's business, says prosperity yusheng took off only when it became an appetiser on Chinese New Year menus.

When yusheng was introduced as the first dish, people started to stand around their tables, tossing yusheng and exchanging well-wishes, Mr Hooi says.

The tossing action, known as "lo hei" in Cantonese, symbolised the sharing of joy, good luck and prosperity."It created a joyful atmosphere and became a trend," Mr Hooi says.

Tweaks and inventions For nearly five decades, Dragon Phoenix has kept to the same yusheng recipe, except it now offers salmon as an alternative to ikan parang or wolf herring fish.

Other variants of yusheng have also popped up in Teochew restaurants where it is served with lettuce, which is used to wrap other ingredients before being dipped in sauce, Mr Hooi says.

Although yusheng is now a staple during Chinese New Year feasting, many people may not realise the dish hailed originally from Guangdong, China.

It was introduced to Singapore by Chinese immigrants who celebrated the seventh day of Chinese New Year by eating raw fish or yu, which sounds like abundance in Chinese and symbolises wealth.

Today, some chefs have replaced fish with other ingredients such as abalone and lobster, says Mr Hooi. Sometimes, walnuts or macadamia nuts are added to enhance the texture of the dish.

"I'm happy to see that the dish is getting more exciting as new ingredients are added or replaced," Mr Hooi says.

"However, as fish is the star ingredient of the dish and is symbolic, it should be kept for its cultural significance."

Tiger Beer

Celebrity hosts such as Lina Ng, also known as Huang Shu Fang, and Lin Youfa will spread festive cheer at selected supermarkets and hypermarkets, courtesy of Tiger Beer, from Feb 6.

Buy the Tiger Beer Chinese New Year Festive bottle (633ml), and stand a chance to win cash prizes worth more than $180,000.

Look for these phrases at the back of each crown liner of these bottles (gong), (xi), (fa), and (cai) that mean, "wishing you a prosperous year".

Find all four phrases to redeem $8,888. A crown liner with the Tiger logo can be redeemed for $80 in cash in participating outlets in coffee shops. Promotion ends on Feb 28.

Singapore Marriott Hotel

Chefs at the hotel's award-winning finedining Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant have whipped up five luxurious menus as well as a la carte dishes, bringing in some new items while keeping the favourites.

These include the Wan Hao Deluxe abalone pen cai featuring fresh five-head abalone, conpoy, fish maw and sea cucumber; Bird's Nest Superior Broth in whole chicken; salmon yusheng; and stewed ee-fu noodles with lobster.

Set menus start from $118.00++ per person.

Tel: 6831-4605.

Website: www.

Copthorne King's Hotel

Pamper your loved ones with Tien Court's takeaways for a sumptuous feast at home.

Dishes include wok-fried rice with preserved meat and sausage (from $32.80+), braised pig's trotter with fa cai (from $98.80+) and whole roasted suckling pig ($288+).

Book one of two seatings (5.30pm or 8pm on Feb 18) for your reunion dinner, and tuck into stewed chicken with cordycep flower and assorted mushrooms; crispy-fried fresh prawns with salt, pepper and cereal, among other dishes.

From $788 per ++ per table (10 diners).

Tel: 6318-3193. E-mail:

Paradise Group

Head to one of the group's many restaurants, including Taste Paradise, Canton Paradise and Paradise Inn for your reunion dinner. Or eat lavishly at home.

The Abundance Package offers four dishes: pen cai with 17 ingredients from whole abalones to premium fish maw; salmon yusheng; dang gui salt-baked chicken (crowd-pleaser); and lotus leaf glutinous rice with waxed meat.

Prices: $338+ (regular) or $538+ (large). Call 6286-8300 (between Feb 12 and 25) or check at

Resorts World Sentosa

If you want to make the drive to Forest restaurant on Sentosa, a choice of four sixcourse set dinners will not disappoint.

Highlights include Braised Superlative Imperial Bird's Nest with crabmeat and crab roe, and charcoal-grilled kurobuta pork with asparagus.

From $108++ to $388++ per diner.

Or, eat more at Starz Restaurant's buffet, whose spread includes Alaskan king crab leg and five-spice-rubbed wagyu beef prime ribs.

Then, slurp on teh tarik chocolate fudge coffee crumble.

From $32++ per head for lunch.

Tel: 6577-6688 (for both eateries).

Swissotel Merchant Court

At the hotel's Ellenborough Market Café, tuck into items such as X.O Salmon yusheng $68++ (10 diners) and Nyonya pen cai $188++ (dine-in only).

The pen cai has favourites like abalone, fish maw, flower crab and braised pig's trotter, in a homemade Nyonya gravy -- blue and yellow ginger are used to bring out the Peranakan flavour.

Tel: 6239-1848.


Long Beach Seafood Restaurant

Empurau - found only in Sarawak, Malaysia - is one of the most expensive, if not priciest, fish to be served to diners at this award-winning restaurant.

The rare breed feeds on fruit that hang over the rivers by leaping out of the water.

It is served Hong Kong style -- steamed, with a mixture of Chinese seasoning in a superior soya sauce ($288 per kg).

Chomp on the lamb ribs too, succulent with Italian herbs for a fresh zest ($28.80 per slab).

Tel: 6445-8833.

Website: sg.


The Westin Singapore

Groups of six or more diners at Seasonal Tastes get free yusheng. You can also indulge in items such as Boston lobsters, king scallops, snow crabs and sashimi in the buffet spread. Each adult diner gets a serving of the Mini Buddha Jumps Over The Wall (a double-boiled broth).

From $52++ for lunch.

Tel: 6922-6968.


This article was first published on February 8, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.