(Online Exclusive – click here.)
“lo-hei” – A toss for Happiness, Blessing, Abundance, and, well, all things good! This is the Cantonese term that describes a tradition begun in Singapore of sharing a large salad and raw fish / seafood dish called “yusheng“, usually during the Lunar New Year. Everyone joins in with gusto, quite a bit of vim and vigour, to stir and toss the salad into a blended mix. The dish is delicious, a delightfully composed orchestration of lightly piquant, sweet, savoury and ‘umami’, the dish often includes ‘auspicious’ sounding fresh vegetables, pickles, raw fish, highly prized seafood, such as abalone, crab, shrimp/prawn, bound together with a sweet-sour sauce.
This Autistic Bunny is a foodie, and how absolutely, fabulously fortuitous to have a brother-in-law who was a top professional chef and now a food scientist. Never a dull meal when we’re with this chap. Always happy tummies too! Well, folks, the Lunar New Year is almost upon us, so it’s time for food-tasting, reviewing and just enjoying the goodies galore. Some of the dishes are new concoctions and others are variations on a traditional theme. This year, my brother-in-law has developed a new and superbly tasty variation of the traditional “yusheng” salad dish, and we’ve had the good fortune of several previews, in the quest to make it just perfect.
My Foodie Bunny verdict? It’s really delicious! But that’s too sweeping and general, so I’ll provide a quick hyper-sensory AutisticBunnyMe detailed summary of the dish here.
Why do I like “yusheng“? It is a beautiful dish to behold. I also enjoy the way distinct, separate entities blend together, visually and texturally still retaining each their own properties visually as well in texture and taste. Carrot is carrot, turnip is turnip etc, no mushiness (which I detest, hence my dislike for stews and curries), just clean, clear, varying degrees and harmonic reverberations of ‘crunchiness’ and ‘chewability’.
Then there is the raw fish – I have always loved raw fish, not sure why, and raw fresh oysters too. Cooked fish takes on a flaky, dry, ‘crusty’ texture that my tongue rejects upon contact, which is why I need a lot of sauce when eating cooked fish. And I avoid cooked oysters as far as I can. They taste like fishy powder.
The Premium set which I’ve been taste-testing has a plethora of yummies from the sea: Amaebi (sweet shrimp), Kajiki (swordfish), Salmon, Hotate (scallops) and Kanifumi (crab sticks) and juicy Abalone. Abalone is yet another favourite of mine. My grandfather used to give us cases of the stuff every year during the Lunar New Year season, and one of my favourite memories is opening a tin of mini abalone and stabbing at the little chewy things with a fork. All to myself, no need to share, straight out of the tin! (Of course there may be others who dislike the eccentric textures and tastes of seafood presented this way, if so, there are other variations of the dish available.)
Then there is the ‘Pork-sperity’ version that comes with bakwa – thinly sliced, tender barbecued pork jerky, another traditional favourite among the Chinese. (Our Singapore version has my top vote, I think we do it best here.) Lightly sweet and savoury, there is a mild smokiness that lingers in the mouth. I’ve never had bakwa in this dish before, it’s a new sensation to me, and since I love bakwa, this addition is a welcome change.
What struck me most was the addition of local fruit in the ‘Fruit-licious’ version: Guava, Pomelo, Mango, Pear and Rose Apple (we call it “jambu“). A quirky, unique combination, refreshing in texture, taste and fragrance. This is such a surprisingly excellent synthesis, especially as I absolutely love tropical fruit!
I’m not fond of the mandatory traditional crushed peanuts or the little puffy crackers poured on top of the dish, but they do lend added texture to the richly endowed experience. I tend to pick out the puffy crackers as I feel they interfere with my exploration of taste, texture and smell, but almost everyone loves the stuff, and it’s an auspicious symbol, so it stays.
OK, I’m almost done with my glowing review. One last thing, and a very important one: that secret recipe yuzu sauce, whatever is in there, it’s amazing! I’ve never tasted any other yusheng sauce like this one. Kudos to my talented brother-in-law. The sweet-sour traditional sauce pales in comparison to this one. This is the sauce that binds everything together into a grandly orchestrated uplifting ‘zing’ – a perfect reward for all the gung-ho efforts put into tossing the yusheng in the lohei tradition.
My personal recommendation, especially for a largish crowd? Get the Premium set + Fruit-licious set – blend and toss! Add your own bakwa if you like too. The best!
Here’re some photos from the many taste-testing sessions we’ve had. I usually dislike festive seasons, but this Lunar New Year, I really am looking forward to doing the lohei and tucking in!
(Work in Progress… arranging the components is an art in itself!)
(All ready for the secret sauce, and then lohei!)
Happy Lunar New Year, Every Bunny!