Jan 31, 2008 - ..Children, Cookery, Singapore    4 Comments    15,746 views

What is the meaning behind the ingredients of “Yu Sheng”?

ASK! about Cookery

The Chinese Lunar New Year is just next week and it’s an excellent time for family reunions and gathering of friends and loved ones.  And what’s a festive season without delicious food? Bak kwa, melon seeds, pineapple tarts, New Year cookies…just typing these food names have made my stomach grumble!

But, how many of us out there really know the significance of the most well-known dish eaten during Chinese New Year, “Yu Sheng”? And that’s the question which blogger, Johanna or thruhereyes, posed on her blog post, http://thruhereyes.wordpress.com/2008/01/18/chinese-new-year-february-6th-2008/.

Well, Johanna, here’s what Singapore Infopedia had to say about the various ingredients of “Yu Sheng” and the special sayings said during “Lo Hei”.

“Step 1: All at the table offers New Year greetings. Words: Gong xi fa cai meaning “Congratulations for your wealth” or Wan shi ru yi meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled”.

Step 2: Fish, symbolising abundance or excess through the year, is added. Words: Nian nian you yu and You yu you sheng.

Step 3: The pomelo is added over the fish, adding both luck and auspicious value. Words: Da ji da li.

Pepper is then dashed over the ingredients in the hope of attracting more money and valuables. Words: Zhao cai jin bao.

Then oil is poured out, circling the ingredients to increase all profits 10,000 times and encouraging money to flow in from all directions. Words: Yi ben wan li and Cai yuan guang jin.

Step 4: Carrots are added to the fish indicating blessings of good luck. Words: Hong yun dang tou.

Then the shredded green radish is placed on the fish symbolising eternal youth. Words: Qing chun chang zhu.

After which the shredded white radish is added – prosperity in business and promotion at work. Words: Feng sheng shui qi and Bu bu gao sheng.

Step 5: The condiments are finally added. First, peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish symbolising a household filled with gold and silver. As an icon of longevity, peanuts also symbolise eternal youth. Words: Jin yin man wu.

Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business. Words: Sheng yi xing long.

Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows is then added with wishes that literally the whole floor would be filled with gold. Words: Pian di huang jin.

Step 6: All toss the salad an auspicious 7 times with loud shouts of lo hei and other auspicious New Year wishes. Words: Lo hei which is Cantonese for “tossing luck”.

The ingredients mixed by pushing them toward the centre, an encouragement to push on the good luck of all at the table. ”

Source: Tan, B (2002). Yu Sheng. Retrieved January 31, 2008, from Singapore Infopedia Web site: http://infopedia.nlb.gov.sg/articles/SIP_177_2004-12-30.html 

Ahhh, I sure am enlightened now about the meanings behind each ingredient in “Yu Sheng”. I hope that you are too, Johanna. :)

Here are some book recommendations on Chinese New Year recipes guaranteed to get your mouth watering. ;)

The festive food of China by Deh-Ta Hsiung; photography by Will Heap
Publisher : London : Kyle Cathie, 2006Call No. : 641.5680951 HSI -[COO] 

Chinese feasts & festivals: a cookbook / recipes & illustrations by S.C. Moey
Publisher : Periplus Editions, 2005
Summary: The rich culinary tradition of China is largely inspired by a calendar year filled with joyous occasions for eating, drinking and making merry. Food, fittingly enough, plays a leading role in everything from festivals to reunions and weddings to anniversaries. The combination of flavors and symbols, such as wealth, happiness, luck, and prosperity, involved in many of these dishes are a spiritual celebration and an earthly pleasure.     
Call No. : J 641.5 MOE

Foods of China by Barbara Sheen
Publisher: Detroit, Mich. : KidHaven Press, 2006
Summary: Take a delicious trip to a fascinating and ancient country where food is woven into every aspect of life. This book takes the reader on an entertaining, enlightening, and edible tour of China. Through a look at Chinese foods, the reader learns about Chinese culture, history, geography, and folklore, all in a hands-on, fun-filled way.
Call No.: J 394.1 SHE

Cooking the Chinese way by Ling Yu 
Publisher: Minneapolis, Minn. : Lerner Publications Co., c2002
Summary: Introduces fundamental of Chinese cooking, including special ingredients and cooking utensils. Also provides recipes for suggested dishes.           
Call No.: Y 641.5951 YU

So whatcha waiting for? Go down to your nearest library and borrow these books to start your very own Chinese feast! :)

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!

All websites were last accessed on 31 January 2008. Please check the websites’ homepages for the terms and conditions of use.
All book summaries were taken from book descriptions listed at www.amazon.com and www.bn.com.
All images were extracted from www.amazon.com and www.bn.com.

For the availability of the above book titles, please check the library catalogue.

Liz_ASK_Pic.JPGPosted by Ms Elizabeth Lee
Children’s Services

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If you have a different question, please email to ask@nlb.gov.sg instead of sending a comment.


  • [...] What is the meaning behind the ingredients of “Yu Sheng”? [...]

  • It seems that the vinegar or plum sauce has been left out. Is there any info on the meaning of the sweet-sour sauce used in the dish?

    [Elizabeth: Hi LPF, I've answered your enquiry separately via email. I hope that the answer was to your satisfaction. Thanks for your support of the ASK! Blog.]

  • plum sauce = tian tian mi mi.

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