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The Yee Sang Prosperity Toss: A Chinese New Year tradition |

Food and Leisure

The Yee Sang Prosperity Toss: A Chinese New Year tradition

Dolly Dy-Zulueta -
The Yee Sang Prosperity Toss: A Chinese New Year tradition
The Yee Sang Salad, all assembled and ready for an auspicious toss.
Dolly Dy-Zulueta

MANILA, Philippines — The nian gao, better known as tikoy in the Philippines, may be the most popular edible symbol of the Chinese New Year celebration, but the Yee Sang Prosperity Toss is fast becoming just as popular.

It is usually offered by the Chinese restaurants of five-star hotels as well as premier Chinese restaurants, as an opening activity to an auspicious Chinese New Year lauriat lunch or dinner. Compared to the art of enjoying tikoy, the Yee Sang Prosperity Toss is a more recent Chinese New Year tradition. “Invented” in Malaysia, the Prosperity Toss is believed to bring good luck, happiness and, as its name straightforwardly declares, prosperity.

The tradition involves a raw fish, usually salmon, and vegetable salad called Yee Sang (or Yu Sheng), with “Yee” meaning fish and “Sang” meaning liveliness. It also includes a number of condiments and sauces. The ingredients are arranged side by side on a big round platter, while some of the condiments, both dry and wet, are in separate bowls placed strategically around the platter. Each ingredient has its own symbolism.

This Yee Sang Prosperity Toss kit, which is assembled by China Blue by Jereme Leung and comes compliments of Conrad Hotel Manila, lists the usual ingredients found in a traditional Yee Sang platter and what each of them means:

  • Fish – Having things in abundance; always having more than enough.
  • Carrots – Good luck is approaching / May good fortune be upon you.
  • Green radish – May you always be youthful and vital.
  • White radish – May your success roar like the wind and the waves.
  • Pomelo – Wish you good luck and good profits.
  • Sesame seeds – Peace and safety for all in the family. 
  • Ground peanuts - May your home be filled with wealth and treasure.

Everyone taking part in the ceremonial tossing gather around the table at an appointed time, each with a pair of chopsticks on hand.

The following condiments and sauces are added to the platter of ingredients as the first step in the prosperity toss:

  • Pepper – May you attract wealth and treasures.
  • Chinese five-spice powder – May all good fortune be upon you and your family.
  • Fried crisps – May wealth and prosperity be everywhere.
  • Peanut oil – May you have prosperity and harmony at home.
  • Sesame oil – May wealth pour in from all directions.
  • Plum sauce – May your life be sweet like honey.

After adding the condiments and sauces to the main ingredients on the platter, it is time to toss the salad. Each reveler dips his (or her) pair of chopsticks into the platter of food, lifts some of the ingredients, and tosses it high up in the air, in the process mixing the ingredients and at the same time doing what is said to bring good luck in the new year. The higher the toss, the better! But you’re worried about the mess? Well, this is one time when everyone is allowed to make a big mess.

While tossing, “ceremonial tossers” recite the symbolism of each ingredient until everyone runs out of breath. After the toss, you eat the mess (which actually tastes very good) and then proceed to enjoy the formal lauriat meal.

RELATED: Ang pao, tikoy, food hampers: Chinese New Year 2023 gift ideas


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