I have my own version of the Joy Luck Club going on in Paris. The scenes are centered around food and drinks rather than playing mahjong, and we have a cast of Parisian born kids in place of ABC's—American born Chinese . We sure do eat, drink, clink, and talk a lot. Ali is a member of the "club" and she is the hostess with the mostess. We rang in the new year with a traditional Singaporean dish, the Prosperity Toss Salad. That's where her orgins lie, though she's a SoCal girl at heart. We've created our own tradition for celebrating CNY which is a hodgepodge of favorite dishes made by each one of us. Suddenly we have a long table abound with food from various cultural influences. For starters of course, we had to start off with some oysters. It's difficult to escape France's fresh shucked wintery oysters.
The Singaporean Prosperity Toss Salad or YúShēng (魚生) is made up of several ingredients with meaning. As a tradition, certain foods had to be served as they were symbolic based upon pronunciation or appearance of these foods. Yú Shēng is literally translated as "raw fish". The chinese character for fish (魚), pronounced yú sounds the same for the Chinese word "abundance" (餘), and shēng (生) which means raw and life also sounds the same as the character meaning to rise (升). This all equates to wishing one abundance, vigour, prosperity, and long life.
Everyone gathers together to toss, toss, toss...the higher you toss, the more fortunate you may be.
Shout out "lo hei, lo hei" while tossing. May your luck and fortune keep rising.
Then stuff yourself silly with everything else around you...
Growing up, we used to get pulled out of school for the day to celebrate Chinese New Year. Lion dances, dragon dances, banging drums, clanging cymbals, crashing gongs, and firecrackers at the feet, hanging above or behind you filled the streets. My sister and I would giggle watching the crowd of people milling about in Chinatown trying to catch a glimpse of all this with hands to their ears whilst jerking suddenly as a firecracker has just gone off in front of their next step. This was way more exciting than sitting in the classroom for the day. Everything on this day is colorful, exciting, and lively. Happy to hear that it is an official holiday in NYC as of this year!
Wishing you all a very happy and healthy Chinese New Year of the Monkey!
Ali's Prosperity Toss Salad
• 300 grams salmon, sushi grade raw
• 1/2 pomelo, peeled and seperated into small segments
• 2 cups carrot, julienned
• 2 cups white radish, julienned
• 2 cups cucumber, julienned
• 1 cup jelly fish (optional—for the squeamish ones)
• 2 stalks spring onions, chopped
• 5 wonton wrap skins, deep fried
• 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
• 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, crushed
• 6 tablespoons Chinese plum sauce
• 2 tablespoons sesame oil
• 1 lime, juiced
• 3-4 tablespoons hot water
Peel and julienne all your vegetables with a mandoline or a julienne peeler: carrots, white radish, cucumbers.
Arrange them on a large platter next to another.
Slice the salmon into thin slices and arrange them on the platter wtih the vegetables.
Chop your spring onions and sprinkle over the ingredients on the platter.
Prepare your crispy wonton peels. Cut your wonton wrap skins in 1/4 inch strips.
In a pan, heat enough oil to cover the wonton strips. Once hot, add the wonton strips in and fry until golden brown and crispy.
As you take them out of the pan, place them on a paper towel so that the excess oil is absorbed. Once it's cooled down, add it to the salad.
Prepare your sauce by mixing all the ingredients together. Add water tablespoon by tablespoon to dilute the sauce and mix well so that it spreads easily over the salad.
Once the salad is assembled, gather everyone around it with a pair of chopsticks.
Sprinkle the crushed peanuts and the sesame seeds over the salad, finally pouring the sauce all over the top of the salad.
Everyone digs in and tosses. Don't forget to shout out "lo hei, lo hei"!