Friday, January 27, 2012


CNY facts #5: The fifth day of the Chinese New Year (破五 - Pòwǔ) is dedicated to the God of Wealth. Many people stay at home to make sure they are there to receive the God of Wealth. The fifth day is also the day businesses re-open, welcoming in the God of Wealth to bless their operations in the coming year with prosperity. Some people also eat dumplings on the morning of 破五 because dumplings look like ancient Chinese gold ingots and are therefore considered lucky.

here's my sisters and i with our red packets (wealth!):
red packets from our parents and grandmother
sam has one extra red packet from christmas
all our crazy faces haha
HUAT AH hahaha

Today, I shall introduce to you 鱼生 (yúshēng). It is used in what we call the prosperity toss/ lo hei (捞起). It is a Teochew-style raw fish salad. It usually consists of strips of raw fish (most commonly salmon), mixed with shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces and condiments, among other ingredients. Yusheng literally means "raw fish" but since "fish (鱼)" is commonly conflated with its homophone "abundance (余)", Yúshēng (鱼生) is interpreted as a homophone for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.

Yusheng is often served as part of a multi-course dinner, usually as the appetizer due to its symbolism of "good luck" for the new year. Some would consume it on 人日 (birthday of man), the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, but it may be consumed on any convenient day during the Chinese New Year (1st to 15th Day). From my own experience, people like to do it multiple times during the New Year with different groups of people and at different houses so as to bring in more prosperity. I mean, no harm in getting more luck right hahaha.

The base ingredients are first served. The leader amongst the diners or the restaurant server proceeds to add ingredients such as the fish, the crackers and the sauces while saying "auspicious wishes" (吉祥话 or Jíxiáng Huà) as each ingredient is added, typically related to the specific ingredient being added. For example, phrases such as Nian Nian You Yu (年年有余) are uttered as the fish is added, as the word Yu (余), which means "surplus" or "abundance", sounds the same as the Chinese word for fish (yu, 鱼).
All diners at the table then stand up and on cue, proceed to toss the shredded ingredients into the air with chopsticks while saying various "auspicious wishes" out loud, or simply "撈起, 撈起". It is believed that the height of the toss reflects the height of the diner's growth in fortunes, thus diners are expected to toss enthusiastically.

Some interesting ingredients and what they represent:
1. Pomelo or lime is added after the fish to represent adding luck and auspicious value. People often shout '大吉大利' (da ji da li - meaning good luck and smooth sailing).
2. Pepper is then dashed on in the hope of attracting more money and valuables. 招财进宝 (zhao cai jin bao) is the auspicious phrase used here, meaning attract wealth and treasures.
3. Then oil is poured out, circling the ingredients and encouraging money to flow in from all directions. The auspicious phrases to use here: 一本万利 (yi ben wan li), meaning make 10,000 times the profit with your capital and 财源广进 (cai yuan guang jin), meaning numerous sources of wealth.
4. Carrots are added, indicating blessings of good luck. Auspicious phrase: 鸿运当头 (hong yun dang tou), meaning good luck is approaching. Carrot (红萝卜) is used as the first character 鸿 in the auspicious phrase also sounds like the Chinese character for red.
5. Then shredded green radish is placed symbolizing eternal youth. Auspicious phrase: 青春常驻 (qing chun chang zhu), meaning forever young. Green radish is used as the first character 青 in the auspicious phrase is also the Chinese character for green.
6. White radish is added to symbolize prosperity in business and work. Auspicious phrases: 风生水起 (feng sheng shui qi), meaning progress at a fast pace and 步步高升 (bu bu gao sheng), meaning reaching a higher level with each step.
7. Peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish symbolizing a household filled with gold and silver. Auspicious phrase: 金银满屋 (jin yin man wu), meaning household filled with gold and silver.
8. Sesame seeds are added symbolizing a flourishing business. Auspicious phrase: 生意兴隆 (sheng yi xing long), meaning prosperity for the business.
9. Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows are added at the end with wishes that the whole floor would be literally filled with gold. Auspicious phrase: 满地黄金 (man di huang jin), meaning floor full of gold.

i've had my fair share of tossing but i don't like eating it:
a close-up of the ingredients


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