Chinese New Year is associated with a whole lot of customs, ranging from spring cleaning to lion dancing. However, one of the most iconic traditions is the Lo Hei. What exactly is it? How did it come about and where can you get your hands on this one-of-a-kind dish when you’re in town? Keep reading to find out. You’ll also see some special deals at the end of the article which makes this enticing local cuisine worth every bite!
What is Lo Hei?
In order to understand what Lo Hei is, you will have to know what Yu Sheng is. Yu Sheng, which means ‘raw fish’ in Mandarin, is a large, colourful salad consisting of thin slices of raw fish and a variety of seasonings and vegetables. It’s also a Singaporean dish that many look forward to during Chinese New Year.
A Cantonese word which translates to ‘tossing up good fortune’, Lo Hei is therefore the act of people gathering around the Yu Sheng and tossing up the dish while shouting words of blessings in Chinese.
But before the great tossing can commence, the preparation of the dish plays just as big a part in the tradition of Lo Hei. Often packed individually, the ingredients of a Yu Sheng need to be added into the salad together with auspicious sayings. And not just any saying — each ingredient is paired with a specific blessing to usher in the new year.
Tip: You will find that the ingredients offered in the Yu Sheng may differ from restaurant to restaurant, as there isn’t a fixed list to follow. Just have fun with whatever you have!
How did this practice come about?
Yu Sheng was originally brought into Singapore by Cantonese and Teochew immigrants from China, but it was quite a different dish then.
The evolution into its modern day-style began with the legendary Four Heavenly Kings of Cantonese Cuisine — who worked as apprentices under Hong Kong Masterchef Luo Chen in the 1950s. Under his wing, they earned the nickname for their culinary prowess and ingenuity. Spreading out and opening restaurants all over Singapore, the four were sworn brothers who frequently met up to discuss innovative ideas and recipes — one of them being the Yu Sheng.
So where can you try this dish for yourself? With an overwhelming variety of Yu Sheng to be sampled in Singapore, here are some recommendations to help narrow down your list.
For a traditional taste: Pu Tien Restaurant
A popular spot for Singaporeans to hold reunion dinners, Pu Tien Restaurant is one of the few restaurants that serves a version closest to the original Yu Sheng and provides an authentic experience. With several outlets around Singapore, it’s also one of the most convenient places to host a Lo Hei at!
For a novelty experience: Antoinette
For those who cannot stomach raw fish, a great alternative is Antoinette’s Queen Yu Sheng. This sweet Yu Sheng dessert challenges the norm, with the highlight of the dish being a giant chocolate egg found in the centre — one that you must break open with a wooden mallet provided before starting the festivities.
For the time-strapped:
Stopping over for a short period in Singapore during Chinese New Year? Good news — you don’t have to leave the airport to sample this dish! Specially curated, here’s a list of Yu Sheng promotions you can find in the public areas of Changi Airport.
*Terms & Conditions apply.
As a child, your parents might have told you not to play with your food. Yet Lo Hei is an exception to the rule. This beautiful dish encourages people to bond and have fun by shouting auspicious sayings at the top of their lungs while throwing food high in the air — the higher the better! This is the crux of the tradition. This is Lo Hei.
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