Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yee Sang - A Delicious Chinese New Year Tradition

The tossing of the salad which is the most auspicious bit of the meal
It is Chinese New Year and 2011 is the year of the Rabbit......A particularly auspicious tradition during Chinese New Year is to have 'Yee Sang' at a restaurant as a start of a 8 to 10 course Chinese New Year banquet. 'Yee Sang' quite literally translates to 'Raw Fish' is meant to bring good luck and prosperity. The 'Yee Sang' combined with the whole fish served later in the banquet represents abundance; while a whole chicken, usually steamed, served with the head and all symbolises completeness (chocki, daisy and blondie wouldn't like this one very much).

'Yee Sang' is traditionally eaten on the 7th of 15 days of celebration during Chinese New Year. There are various versions from various Chinese communities around the world. This recipe was passed on to my family through a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia famous for serving this salad during Chinese New Year. I have been told the secret is in the sauce and as of the time of writing I am not privy to the recipe of the sauce...this year my mum made the sauce with our own home-grown plums...extra delicious.

WARNING this salad is highly addictive and time consuming, you may need to set aside one whole day if you want to prepare everything perfectly. The whole family should be involved.
The secret sauce
A handy vegetable grater
What you need to make this scrumptious salad for around 6 to 8 people.

The salad:
  • 3 large white radish/Daikon
  • 6 sticks of carrot
  • 3 sun dried mandarins
  • 1/2 cup of sesame seeds (toasted)
  • 1/2 cup of kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/2 cup of pickled mini leeks
  • 1 cup of coriander (chopped roughly)
  • 1 cup of crushed peanuts (chunky and not too crushed)
  • 200g of Chinese jellyfish
  • 350g of Fresh sashimi grade salmon
  • 10 sheets of fried won-ton wrapper (in the past few years we have substituted this with 'Crunchy Nut' corn flakes. We found that it gave a better texture and sweetness and was more resistant to sogginess)
  • 1/2 of oil (vegetable or canola oil, something without a strong not your best olive oil)
  • Traditionally white pepper and 5 spice is placed in a red envelope before being poured on top of the salad as a sign of luck.
  • chopsticks for tossing and eating the salad. 
Some of the ingredients may sound daunting but most of the stuff are quite common and you should be able to pick everything up at your local asian grocer.

The sauce (this what I think is in the sauce based on my palate):
  • 1 cup of plum sauce
  • 2 limes (juiced)
  • 2 tablespoons of brown/raw sugar
Place all your the contents of your sauce into a saucepan and simmer and stir constantly until it is close to camrelisation and your sauce will be ready. Cool down to room temperature and it is ready to serve. NOTE: (Be careful when handling anything boiling with a high sugar content. It will be extremely hot and will take a very long time to cool down, much longer than you would expect. Just ask any chef and they will tell you about burning their hands on a balsamic reduction or caramel...yeap it's happened to me too)

How it is done...
  1. Using a grating device (pictured above), finely 'julienne' your radish and carrots. We used to do this with a knife and it took forever! now we use this grating gadget which saves a lot of time.
  2. You want the salad to be dry so it soaks up all the sauce. Radish are super wet vegetables so make sure you remove any excess liquid by squeezing the julienned radish through a cloth bag or a salad spinner.
  3. About an hour before serving, I cure the salmon a little with a pinch of salt, tad bit of sugar and some rice wine (I used Gin last week)
  4. Place all the ingredients in a large enough platter with plenty of room for salad tossing to ensure no mass spillage.

Tossing the salad
  • The best way to do it is toss and mix the dry vegetables and ingredients
  • Then when you get an even mix, add the wet ingredients like the oil and sauce
  • The final touches involves throwing in your salmon and fried won-ton skins or 'Crunchy Nut', throw all this in while continually tossing the salad. 
  • The most prosperity is achieved by tossing the salad the highest!


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That looks lovely! And you're right, it does take ages doesn't it! We even roped my dad into helping out :P

Keen Poon said...

Love your blog've got some awesome recipe ideas in there...Do you work on it full time? It seems to consume some time...

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