Just who created the yusheng dish which has become synonymous with Chinese New Year in Singapore? Almost everyone says it’s the Sin Leong chef. Not me. Though I base my belief on no more than sheer memory –which may not be reliable.
As far as I’m concerned, the first time I ever tasted yusheng was in Kuala Lumpur hosted by my BFF ES on one of my visits there. At a Petaling Street eatery.
It was some time after the 1969 racial riots but before I took on real working responsibilities. Till then, I’d never tasted yusheng, perhaps due to the fact that I come from a family of hill turtles
Anyway, I distinctly remember ES telling me that the garnshings of white radish strips, cucumber strips, etc were known as “lap sap” or rubbish. And that the dish was only eaten during the 7th day of the Chinese New Year or Yun-Yat, day of the human being or day of everyman.
Another pointer that yusheng might have originated from KL rather than SG is that when participants toss the largely raw ingredients (save for the crackers) they chant “Lo hei”, a distinctly Cantonese phrase. KL is better known for speaking Cantonese, while SG’s major Chinese dialect is Hokein.
Since my first encounter with yusheng, however, it has become so popular that even typically western-oriented establishments like the Tanglin Club and Singapore Cricket Club start offering it well be4 the dawn of Chinese New Year Day and don’t stop serving the dish till Chap Go Mei or the 15th Day of the Chinese New Year.
With the official end of Chinese New Year celebrations tonight — Yuan Xiao Jie 元宵节– I would like to share my memories of the various yusheng encounters I have had since Feb 1
First taste was had at Jumbo Restaurant@ Dempsey where the Lunch Party had our monthly lunch. It was a luscious offering with plenty of sliced salmon waiting to be tossed.
The next tasting came when AI dropped in from one of her globe-trotting trips and treated some friends and me to a meal at the Tanglin Club. As an absent member, she was raring to do some spending!
Another yusheng was had at my sister n BIL’s home. Mum n I have been going there for kai nian fan for as long as my sister has been married. Their newly minted DIL rushed out to Jelita Cold Storage to get a portion as we are all addicted to the dish. She even splashed out on an extra portion of fish
Not to be out done, I rushed out on the 7th Day of the New Year and bought a serving from GWC Cold Storage for lunch. The $29 serving was loaded on veggies but the sliced salmon was so little I could have eaten it all by myself in one mouthful. But I didn’t add fish, as there were only five of us for lunch that day, the rest of the immediate family having gone to Malaysia to visit far-flung relatives.
The next yusheng I had was courtesy of old school mate JLS who treated us to the dish at our quarterly get together. A generous portion large enough to cater to 14 hungry — and growing– women
Then came Feb 21 when I went into yusheng overdrive. For lunch, I was at the ritualistic annual CNY lunch hosted by the Association of Banks in Singapore. This time, the event was at the Ritz Carlton and as to be expected, there was no stinting on the fish!
That night, it was dinner with the regular Thursday night yoga kakis at the Kampung Glam Community Club. Our instructors hosted and provided a veritable feast, especially their mum’s signature vegetarian yusheng which was as much a treat for the eye as for the stomach. In place of fish, young fresh coconute flesh was used. Healthy and utterly delicious!
The final yusheng dish for the Year of the Black Water Snake was eaten at another extended family dinner (hosted by younger brother SY and wife) at Xin Fut Kai, a vegetarian restaurant with a huge following at 282 Jalan Besar.
Am I tired of yusheng after this binge? The answer is a resounding “no”.
Frankly, I don’t understand why it isn’t available all the year round, especially when the providers’ profit margin must be wide enough to drive a bendy bus through!
Perhaps I shall go into the yusheng business?