5 Steps To A Successful Lo Hei

Your list of must-dos for tossing yu sheng for Chinese New Year.

By Chris Ong        2 February 2022

It’s a dining tradition that always gets everyone in Singapore hyped up during the Chinese New Year (CNY) period: Throwing food up in the air.

We’re talking about the art of lo hei and the tossing of yu sheng. In a nutshell: The lo hei (Cantonese for “tossing up”) CNY affair involves the gathering of family and friends around a table, to use chopsticks and toss a cold salad (the Yu Sheng) composed of raw fish slices or other seafood, shredded vegetables and packets of condiments and seasonings, and saying out aloud auspicious phrases in Mandarin. The higher the toss, the happier the cheers and the messier the throws, the better it bodes for the rest of the year.

While it might be a familiar celebratory practice, there is still a need to prep adequately and safely for the get-together. Don’t leave it to luck; take these 5 steps to ensure that your lo hei session goes well for health, wealth and all things swell that you deserve in 2022. Huat ah!

1. Buy the yu sheng

It does not matter what kind of yu sheng platter you get, as long as you get one (or more, if you are having several lo hei sessions). Some yu sheng sets can be so popular that they get sold out faster than you can toss them if you didn’t pre-order.

There are tonnes of variations to be found across all the restaurants, supermarkets and other F&B outlets that are joining in the CNY festivities. Some will be more novel or more luxe, made with fusion-style recipes or more expensive ingredients, making for modern takes to this traditional dish. But, all types should feature at least the basic mix of the necessary ingredients for a proper yu sheng platter. It could also mean that you might have to spend some time and effort “window-shopping” for the ones that you want.

Or, if you aren’t sure what to buy, be assured that you will get the perfect set with Qian Xi Group’s New Year Special Takeaway Yu Sheng. It has all of the essential yummy stuff and more – extra crunch comes in the form of fried salmon skin. Choose from either a 4-6 pax portion ($16.80+) platter or an 8-10 pax portion ($19.80) platter. And, if you are feeling generous, want more luck or just plain peckish, top up with more fried salmon skin (from $10), smoked salmon fish (from $12 for 12 slices) or sliced abalone (from $18 for 12 slices).

The Qian Xi Group’s New Year Special Takeaway Yu Sheng is available from the Qian Xi Group of restaurants, including:

Pearl Garden: #3A-02 SAFRA Jurong, 333 Boon Lay Way
Jubilee Garden: #03-01 SAFRA Toa Payoh, 293 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
Summer Garden: #02-05 SAFRA Mount Faber, 2 Telok Blangah Way
Delivery available; more info at www.qianxi.com.sg/takeaway

2. Set the table

This is for the people who intend to hold a lo hei at home. And, these are the things to do to be the “host of fortune”:

– Prepare all the needed crockery and eating utensils such as serving plates, drinking glasses and, of course, chopsticks. Chopsticks are the customary cutlery “pièce de résistance” of the lo hei session that’s used for grabbing the ingredients and flinging them up in the air. Yu sheng may be a cold salad but tongs, forks and spoons aren’t used for the dish on such occasions. Get extra-long and larger-sized pairs for better reach and more fun.

– Cover your dining table with a plastic sheet or covering. Tossing Yu Sheng will be a sloppy affair, and yes, we might inadvertently, throw the ingredients that have fallen out from the plate back into the mess. So, make sure the table is clean and sanitary enough to pick food up off it if you don’t intend to use any table sheets, linens, mats, runners and the like.

3. Learn the ritual and phrases

This is a super important aspect of the lo hei custom. There’s a sequence of prepping the yu sheng and what to say when doing so and during the toss. While the steps and sayings might vary (the ritual also depends on the ingredients used), here’s a quick basic guide.’

  1. Adding slices of raw fish (or abalone or salmon) – the main seafood star of the dish):
    年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú) – “May every year be filled with abundance”
  2. Adding lime, pomelo or something citrusy:
    大吉大利 (dà jí dà lì) – “Good luck and great prosperity”
  3. Sprinkling spices (pepper or seasoning powder):
    招财进宝 (zhāo cái jìn bǎo) – “May you attract wealth and treasures”
    财源广进 (cái yuán guǎng jìn) – “May wealth pour in from numerous sources/directions”
  4. Drizzling oil:
    一本万dding shredded carrots:利 (yī běn wàn lì) – “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital”
  5. Adding shredded carrots:
    鸿运当头 (hóng yùn dāng tóu) – “Good luck/fortune is approaching you”
  6. Adding green radish:
    青春常驻 (qīng chūn cháng zhù) – “May you be eternally youthful”
  7. Adding shredded white radish or white cabbage:
    步步高升 (bù bù gāo sheng) – “May you reach higher levels with each step”
    风生水起 (fēng shēng shuí qǐ) – “May you progress at a fast pace”
    (sayings to wish for a successful career)
  8. Sprinkling chopped peanuts:
    金银满屋 (jīn yín mǎn wū) – “May your household be filled with gold and silver”
  9. Sprinkling sesame seeds:
    生意兴隆 (shēng yì xīng lóng) – “May your business flourish”
  10. Pour plum sauce (in circles over the dish):
    甜甜蜜蜜 (tián tián mì mì) – “May your life and relationships be sweet ”
  11. Adding Golden pillow crackers:
    遍地黄金 (biàn dì huáng jīn) – “May the whole floor be filled with gold”
  12. While tossing up everything:
    万事如意 (wàn shì rú yì) – “May all your wishes come true”
    身体健康 (shēn tǐ jiàn kāng) – “May your body be strong and healthy”
    恭喜发财 (gōng xǐ fā cái) – “Wishing you happiness and prosperity”
  13. To end before digging in:
    Huat ah! Huat ah! Huat ah! – Hokkien for “Get lucky!”

Super important: While saying these auspicious phrases is important, so is staying safe in this pandemic. Which means you shouldn’t be shouting them out without your mask, but try saying them in your mind while performing the lo hei custom or even look up apps that you can use to broadcast the phrases from your mobile phone speaker instead!

4. Stick to the COVID-19 Safe Management Guidelines

Aside from making sure that you and your dining party do not utter out aloud auspicious phrases while at the lo hei sesh, there are a few more guidelines to take note of so every one’s kept safe and happy:

  • Cap the number of visitors to your home to 5 distinct visitors a day, regardless of whether they are on your property at the same time or not.
  • Don’t visit more than 2 households a day, which means it is best to attend only 1 home-based lo hei celebration for either lunch of dinner if you can, to keep your social activities low.
  • Wear a mask when dining out, and when not eating or drinking at the table.
  • Do not book multiple tables, unless it’s for a party of more than 5 from the same household. And, though your dining party may be from the same living space, members can’t mingle across tables, so plan ahead how you intend to split up the group for separate lo hei tossings. It just means having more food, more luck, more fortune and more safety!