Sunday, 17 February 2013

For Wealth And Prosperity, Give This A Toss - Fat Choy Yu Sheng 发财鱼生 (Chinese Raw Fish Salad with Plum Sauce Dressing)

Over the period of Chinese New Year, a delicate and crunchy raw fish salad Yu Sheng 鱼生 is enjoyed by almost everyone in Singapore, none more so than on the seventh day of the New Year, commonly known as everyone's birthday, ren ri 人日. This salad relies heavily on the balance of all the ingredients as sometimes, up to 20 ingredients are used to create this. Each component is picked either for their colour or their auspicious meaning.

A usual mixture will include raw fish - traditionally wolf herring but salmon is very much the norm these days, finely julienne vegetables, candied melon, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds, pickled ginger, pomelo, jellyfish and limes. These are then tossed just before serving in a sweet-tangy plum sauce dressing.

The tossing of this beautiful multi-coloured salad is what makes this a very special occasion indeed. It must be done standing up as this mammoth task is impossible to action sitting down and where is the fun in that. Using long chopsticks to raise the salad high or lo hei 捞起 signified stirring up luck and prosperity. The higher you toss, the better your fortune for the year will be. Don't worry about creating a mess as this means fortune scattered everywhere (so make sure you make as much mess as possible on your end to ensure you get all the good fortune). Another common practice is to shout out well wishes such as nian nian you yu (to have abundance of), bu bu gao sheng (to be successful), jin yu man tang (gold and gems filling the house), and so on and so forth.

And since we are still within the fifteen days of Chinese New Year......go on, have yourself a toss and may this bring you wealth and prosperity.

Ingredients (Serves 6-8)

For the vegetables:
3 medium carrots, roughly 150g
1 large white daikon, roughly 150g
1 green daikon , roughly 150g (use white ones if this is not available) 
100g pink flesh pomelo flesh, flakes into small segment
3 spring onion, thinly sliced
50g pickled red ginger/beni-shoga
50g candied melon, cut into julienne
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
80g toasted peanuts, roughly chopped

For the seafood:
150g sushi-grade wolf herring or salmon (alternatively used sliced smoked salmon, see method below)
100g prepared jellyfish, drain and thoroughly rinsed

For the crispy dough flakes:
8 sheets wanton wrapper, cut into 1cm squares
Sunflower oil, for shallow frying 

For the plum sauce:

3 fresh ripen red plums, pitted and halves
100ml water
2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sugar, or more depending on the ripeness of the plums

For the dressing:
50g groundnut oil
1 lime, cut into halves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
2 red packet/angbao, for garnish


To prepare the sauce. Place the plum, water, honer or maple syrup, lemon juice into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pour the puree into a pan, add the salt and sugar and bring to a bil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more sugar if it is too tart. Strain the sauce into a bowel and set aside ti cool completely.

Prepared the vegetables. Peel the daikon and carrot and cut into fine julienne strands. Soaks the strands in cold water for 10 minutes to refresh them. Drain and dry thoroughly with clean tea towel. 

Prep the seafood. Wrap the fish in clingfilm and freeze for 20 minute to firm up before slicing them across the grain thinly. 

(If using smoked salmon, soak in some water and slices of fresh ginger for 30 minutes. Drain and dry throughly before cut into thin strips)

For the crispy dough flakes. Heat some oil in a pan to 190ºC and fry the wanton squares for 30 seconds. Remove immediate once they start turning golden and drain on some kitchen paper.

Assemble the yu sheng. Mould the carrot and daikon onto a large serving plate. Arrange the rest of the items such as pomelo, spring onion, fish slices, jelly fish, pickled ginger etc in small moulds around the plate.

Place the plum sauce, groundnut oil, lime in their own dish on the table. Fill the angbao with ground cinnamon and white pepper.

To serve, empty the cinnamon and white pepper onto the salad, follow by squeezing over the lime. Drizzle with the oil and plum sauce (you don't have to use them all) and now get tossing. Mix thoroughly before serving a small portion to every diner.

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