Lex Petros: Yee Sang & Low Hei

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yee Sang & Low Hei

A timeless ritual chinese practices during the Lunar New Year celebrations aka Chinese New Year celebrations. The common dish known as "Yee Sang" or raw fish, transliterated. In Malaysia, there is almost no option for every Chinese family to indulge in this exercise at the dinner table on the eve of the new year, commonly called the "Reunion dinner" or at any place where a table of guests are preparing to dine.

The Singapore-originated (as I found out) dish had fish served with white radish, carrots, red capsicum, turnips, red pickled ginger, sun-dried oranges, lime tree leaves, Chinese parsley, chilli, jellyfish, chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, Chinese shrimp crackers (or fried dried shrimp), five-spice powder and other ingredients, laced with a sauce using plum sauce, rice vinegar kumquat paste and sesame. Originally, the dish used raw mackerel, although in deference to the popular wishes of customers, salmon was later offered as an alternative due to the growing its popularity. These days, there are variations with raw jellyfish stripes, which serves as a cheaper alternative.

The act of communal mixing or "low hei", involving tossing the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks (much like you would with Caesar salad) while exclaiming various "auspicious wishes" out loud. It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the dinner's growth in fortunes, thus dinners are expected to toss enthusiastically; the level of enthusiasm commonly depicted by the "height" of the the toss.

There is no real specific technique in the toss, but I've come to realize the "toss experts" could manage to mix the ingredients up in midair with skillful chopstick-play!

The tangy taste of Yee Sang sets out your palate for the tantelizing dishes which comes after that.

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