The Very Malaysian Origin Of The Yee Sang

Yun House | Four Season Kuala Lumpur | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Chinese New Year is celebrated by the sinosphere across the world, and while it has its roots in Chinese culture, the prosperity toss or yee sang is something that is uniquely Malaysian. Today, we will explore a bit about this dish, auspicious phrases to say during the prosperity toss, and 9 of our favourite yee sang we’ve come across in Kuala Lumpur.

Fat Fish | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

What Is Yee Sang?

Yee Sang (jyu saang, 魚生) is a type of salad that is traditionally prepared with raw fish, carrots, daikon, cucumber, pickled ginger, pomelo, peanuts, sesame seeds, pillow crackers, five spice powder, pepper, oil and plum sauce. These are the most common ingredients used, however, many chefs and restaurants have chosen and adapted this dish to make it more exciting, which has also included versions with snow pear, abalone and even caviar. The dish is then assembled on a plate for the Prosperity Toss (lou hei, 捞起) in which the vegetables are first beautifully laid on a plate, excluding the peanuts, sesame, crackers, powders, oils and sauces, which auspicious saying are uttered while the final ingredients are added. Then, diners will toss the ingredients into the air with more auspicious wishes. This is why the dish’s actual name is Lou Hei Yee Sang (捞起魚生).

Oversea Fabulous Fruity Yee Sang | Oversea Restaurant | Yee Sang Tour Genting | Food For Thought

Where Did Yee Sang Come From?

Although instinctively one would assume Yee Sang comes from China, its current iteration that we all know so well was actually birthed in Malaysia itself. Legend has it that the original Yee Sang was created by Loke Ching Fatt, originally a Cantonese immigrant from China, in the 1940s who owned a small catering business called Loke Ching Kee in the sleepy town of Seremban. As Malaya was going through recovery from World War II, Loke decided to pivot his business by creating the Lo Hei Yee Sang, a dish was inspired by the Chinese celebration of Ren Ri (人日), the 7th day of the Chinese New Year, where humanity was created according to myth. As it was common for the Cantonese to eat raw fish on that day, Loke decided to create the dish we know and love today, taking some inspiration from not only Cantonese culture, but Teochew and Hokkien cultures which were prevalent in Malaya as well. The dish was also prepared intentionally ritualistic, ensuring that the flavour and colours are observed for the auspicious new year. In the past, Grass Carp (waan jyu, 鯇魚) would be used, where they would be starved for a few days to ensure all impurities are gotten rid of before slicing up for the preparation, however, today salmon would be the most common form of preparation.

Auspicious Sayings | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Auspicious Sayings For The Prosperity Toss

When it comes to the Prosperity Toss, there are accompanied auspicious sayings uttered while the dish it being pulled together. These sayings usually are homophones for good words, for example, nin nin jau jyu (年年有餘) is uttered because “fish” (魚) and “abundance” (餘) sound the same. Here are some popular sayings to help you at your next Prosperity Toss which we have listed in Cantonese jyutping (粵拼) and Mandarin hanyu pinyin (汉语拼音).

年年有餘 / 年年有餘

nin4 nin4 jau5 jyu4 / nián nián yǒu yú
“Abundance throughout the year”
This saying is represented by fish.

鴻運當頭 / 鸿运当头

hung4 wan6 dong1 tau4 / hóng yùn dāng tóu
“Good luck is approaching”
This saying is represented by carrots for its auspiciousness.

青春美麗 / 青春美丽

cing1 ceon1 mei5 lai6 / qīng chūn měi lì
“Youth and beauty forever”
This saying is represented by cucumbers and spring onions for its freshness.

大吉大利 / 大吉大利

daai6 gat1 daai6 lei6 / dà jí dà lì
“Good luck and smooth sailing”
This saying is represented by pomelo for its luckiness.

財源廣進 / 财源广进

coi4 jyun4 gwong2 zeon3 / cái yuán guǎng jìn
“Numerous sources of wealth”
This saying is represented by pepper and five spice for the colours of life.

金玉满唐 / 金玉满唐

gam1 juk6 mun5 tong4 / jīn yù mǎn táng
“Household filled with gold and silver”
This saying is represented by sesame for seeds of growth.

生意興隆 / 生意兴隆

saang1 ji3 hing1 lung4 / sheng yì xīng lóng
“Prosperity for the business”
This saying is represented by peanuts for good business.

甜甜蜜蜜 / 甜甜蜜蜜

tim4 tim4 mat6 mat6 / tián tián mì mì
“May life always be sweet”
This saying is represented by plum sauce for sweetness in life.

顺顺利利 / 顺顺利利

seon6 seon6 lei6 lei6 / shùn shùn lì lì
“All goes smoothly”
This saying is represented by oil for smoothness in every venture.

滿地黃金 / 满地黄金

mun5 dei6 wong4 gam1 / mǎn dì huáng jīn
“Floor full of gold”
This saying is represented by pillow shaped crackers as they look like gold ingots.

Niu Year Niu MeNiu: 9 Unique Yee Sang And Where To Find Them

Now that you know what to say for the Prosperity Toss, here are a few restaurants in Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley that are providing some of our favourite tasting Yee Sang, with unique ingredients and flavours. Here, we have selected 9 yee sang which we have enjoyed.

Awesome Canteen | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Light and Zesty Yee Sang by Awesome Canteen

Awesome Canteen is located in Paramount and is serving quite a light and refreshing yee sang, unique with its crimson-coloured lotus root chips and its use of arrowroot chips for added crisp in the dish. Colourful both on the palate and visually, this yee sang is a good mix with its touch of Japanese flavours.

  • Awesome Canteen Yee Sang (Small) at RM38
  • Awesome Canteen Yee Sang (Medium) at RM68
  • Awesome Canteen Yee Sang (Large) at RM88
  • Awesome Canteen Yee Sang (Extra Large) at RM128 (comes with prawns)

Awesome Canteen
19, Jalan 20/13,
Taman Paramount,
46300 Petaling Jaya,
+603 7865 8048

Copper Mansion | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Crystalised Ice Plant Yee Sang by Copper Mansion

Copper Mansion by the Oriental Group is arguably one of the best traditional Cantonese restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, with dishes that impress at every turn. Their Yee Sang this year adds in layers of ice plant, for that unique texture unlike any other.

  • Prosperity Yee Sang with Salmon and Crystalised Ice Plant at RM78++ / RM98++
  • Prosperity Yee Sang with Fresh Fruits and Crystalised Ice Plant (v) at RM78++ / RM98++
  • Prosperity Yee Sang with Soft Shell and Crystalised Ice Plant at RM98++ / RM138++
  • Prosperity Yee Sang with Abalone and Crystalised Ice Plant at RM128++ / RM188++
  • Prosperity Yee Sang with Mexican Abalone and Crystalised Ice Plant at 688++

Copper Mansion
18B, Jalan 51a/223,
46100 Petaling Jaya,
+603 7932 7777

Fin To Tail Yee Sang by Ember Modern Bistro x Fish For It

One of the most unique offerings in town, the Fin To Tail approach by the latest collaboration of the Ember restaurant and seafood purveyors Fish For It comes in a set fit for 4 people, with 4 fish dishes, including yee sang, ceviche, steam fish and fish soup. A valiant effort for championing sustainability. The yee sang is light and refreshing, which makes a perfect choice for those looking for a bit of everything.

  • Ember x Fish For It Kit (inclusive of Yee Sang) at RM188

Ember Modern Bistro
20, Jalan Wan Kadir 1,
Taman Tun Dr Ismail,
60000 Kuala Lumpur
+6018 323 2786

Fat Fish Yee Sang | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Sashimi Grade Salmon Yee Sang by The Fat Fish

One of our favourite casual Japanese restaurants is also doing very affordable yee sang complete with sashimi grade salmon, so it would be tough to find another with the same level of grade for the price. This is one for the sashimi lovers.

  • Fat Fish Yee Sang (Small) at RM88
  • Fat Fish Yee Sang (Large) at RM138

The Fat Fish
GF-6, 163 Retail Park,
8, Jalan Kiara,
Mont Kiara,
50480 Kuala Lumpur
+6013 261 3777

Mandarin Oriental Yee Sang, Kuala Lumpur | Four Points Chinatown | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Wagyu Yee Sang at Lai Po Heen, Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur

As it is the year of the Ox, its no surprise that there are luxurious offerings such as this, as Lai Po Heen is offering wagyu as part of their yee sang, but not just any regular cut, it’s a Wagyu striploin with MS8. Definitely a great way to usher in the new year, but if seafood is more your thing, the Sea Urchin yee sang will ensure you a delectable dinner. For something different, there’s also products you can pick from the Mandarin Shop.

  • Vegetarian Snow Pear Yee Sang at RM108 / RM216
  • Salmon Yee Sang at RM168 / RM336
  • Australian Two Head Abalone Yee Sang at RM240 / RM480
  • Sea Urchin and Fish Roe Yee Sang at RM260 / RM520
  • Wagyu Beef Striploin Marble Eight Yee Sang at RM280 / RM560

Lai Po Heen
Mandarin Oriental
Kuala Lumpur City Centre,
50088 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2380 8888

Resort Cafe Yee Sang | Sunway Resort | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Asian Snow Pear Yee Sang by The Resort Café, Sunway Resort

For those looking for something quite refreshing, Resort Café at Sunway Resort has created a yee sang complete with the sweet and crisp Asian snow pear, which adds a texture and sweetness that brightens the dish as a whole. The restaurant is also making available their Roasted Truffle Duck marinated with herbs and stuffed with truffle paste, shallots, fresh orange and black garlic, something you’d have to try to understand.

  • Salted Egg Yolk, Crispy Shrimp & Asian Snow Pear Yee Sang at RM78 / RM138
  • Fruit & Roasted Flaxseed Yee Sang (v) at RM88 / RM168
  • Vegetarian Asian Snow Pear Yee Sang (v) at RM118 / RM198
  • Premium Soft Shell Crab & Asian Snow Pear Yee Sang at RM118 / RM198
  • Fresh Salmon Trout & Asian Snow Pear Yee Sang at RM118 / RM198

The Resort Café
Sunway Resort
Lobby Level,
1, Persiaran Lagoon,
Bandar Sunway,
47500 Petaling Jaya,
+603 7495 2009

Quan's Kitchen | Four Points Chinatown | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Soft Shell Crab & Satay Fish Yee Sang by Quan’s Kitchen, Four Points Chinatown

The Yee Sang at Quan’s Kitchen has been created extra crispy and umami this year, with soft shell crab, crispy fish satay and chicken floss rice crackers, ensuring each bite is full of crisp and crunch. The mix of the sauce is also quite unique, with the flavours of Chinatown echoing throughout. They are also doing a Mini Lou, portioned for one, which you can celebrate with loved ones across video call, which comes individually packed. You can even have different delivery addresses, so this makes a great way to celebrate with friends virtually.

  • Mini Lou & Bird’s Nest Baijiu Cocktail (minimum 5 portions) at RM38
  • Triple Prosperity Yee Sang at RM88 / RM138
  • Opulence Yee Sang with Tanjung Malim T’Lur Caviar at RM168 / RM298

Quan’s Kitchen
Four Points by Sheraton Kuala Lumpur, Chinatown
8th Floor,
2, Jalan Balai Polis,
50000 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2035 7333

Yen | W Kuala Lumpur | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Crispy Lobster Meat Yee Sang by Yen, W Kuala Lumpur

Yen at W hotel has created a range of interesting yee sang, with a bit of a crunch. The Norwegian Salmon Fish Yee Sang comes with air dried Szechuan chips for that added bite and flavour, while the Soft Shell Crab Yee Sang comes with crispy lobster meat. Definitely upping the ante with crispy umami. They also do some fantastic Chinese New Year Dim Sum, so do pick a couple, we recommend the Steamed Shanghai Fortune Dumpling and unique Oven Baked Fatt Choi Abalone Pie.

  • Premium Jelly Fish Yee Sang, Korean Snow Pear, Avocado Oil at RM118 / RM228+
  • Norwegian Salmon Fish Yee Sang, Air Dried Szechuan Fish Chips, Crispy Fish Skin at RM118 / RM228+
  • Qiandao Lake Angel Beads, Crispy Lobster Meat and Soft Shell Crab Yee Sang at RM188 / RM338+
  • Caviar, Gold Flakes, Truffles Oil, Abalone Yee Sang at RM248 / RM488

W Kuala Lumpur
121, Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur
+6012 347 9088

Yun House Yee Sang | Four Season Kuala Lumpur | Yee Sang 2021 | Food For Thought

Crispy Noodle Yee Sang at Yun House, Four Season Kuala Lumpur

One of the most innovative yee sang we have come across, there are a variety of ways to experience it, from vegetarian to wagyu shank, to smoked eel and the luxurious Alaskan king crab, they choices are a plenty, but what really stands out with these dishes are that they all come with crispy fried yee mee. The noodles once mixed in like none other that we have tasted, becoming a yee sang noodle. One of the more unique offerings around town.

  • Vegetarian Superfood Yee Sang at MYR88 / MYR108
  • Wagyu Beef Shank Yee Sang at RM188 / RM388
  • Salmon Belly Yee Sang at RM208 / RM416
  • Smoked Eel Yee Sang at RM208 / RM416
  • Alaskan King Crab Yee Sang at MYR300 / RM600

Yun House
Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur
145, Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2382 8888

For more related articles, see Chinese New Year.
For our Instagram Chinese New Year reviews, see #FFTCNY.

Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic, travelogue and opinion columnist which is curated on Food For Thought. He has been a freelance writer for 10 years and has previously worked as a lawyer. He currently is the Principal Counsultant of A Thoughtfull Consultancy.

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