This Wednesday – the 7th Day of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration – it’s your birthday! But before you start asking everyone for gifts, it just happens to be their birthday too. According to Chinese legend, humans were created on the 7th Day of the New Year, so to this day, it is celebrated as Renri 人日, which means “Human Day”.
To celebrate together, Chinese families & friends in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia will enjoy a festive colored salad dish called Yee Sang 鱼生. Everyone will gather around the table, chopsticks in hand, and toss the Yee Sang ingredients up in the air, while saying Lo Hei (toss up), or any well wishes for the New Year.
Yee Sang, or Yusheng, is a mishmash of colorful, auspicious ingredients – shredded veggies like daikon, carrot, cucumber, jicama, and yam; slices of raw salmon or mackerel; pickled ginger; prawn crackers or flour crisps; jellyfish; mandarin orange or pomelo; crushed peanuts and toasted sesame seeds; and finally, a sweet & savory dressing made from plum sauce and Chinese Five Spice.
Not exactly chocolate cake with candles on top. But this Prosperity Salad, as Yee Sang is known, is meant to bring you good health and wealth in the upcoming year. And it really is delicious, especially when you create your own version with the ingredients you like best. Like many of the Asian recipes I share here, I give Yee Sang a modern touch, by keeping it simple, healthy, and tasty.
Instead of raw fish, try Alaskan smoked salmon. Skip the jellyfish. Choose just a few veggies to shred/julienne like carrot, jicama, red pepper, cucumber, and green onion. Use whatever citrus fruit you have on hand like grapefruit, mandarin orange, or pomelo. Replace the prawn crackers with crunched up rice crackers. If you like Japanese red pickled ginger, go ahead and add it in. Crushed peanuts and toasted sesame seeds are a must, along with Penang Chinese Five Spice and a pinch of Sichuan Pepper Sea Salt for sprinkling on at the end.
For the dressing, you can just use plum sauce, or a healthier homemade version made with marmalade, lemon & lime juice, soy sauce, honey, and toasted sesame oil.
Enjoy the Yee Sang and remember to Lo Hei. It’s a mess with ingredients flying up in the air, but it’s all in good fun. Happy Chinese Birthday – Happy Human Day! – and may you and your loved ones have a prosperous New Year!