Yu-sheng: The Culinary Heritage Wars of South East Asia continue….

I was invited to a Lunar New Year luncheon by some partners at the Dragon Phoenix Restaurant a couple of days ago. As part of the Lunar New Year celebrations, Yu-sheng was served. This information card was on my plate.

The Original Singapore Yusheng

In the early years, fishermen along the cost of Guang Dong province, used to celebrate the 7th day (day of humanity) of the Lunar New Year by eating raw fish slices. It was introduced to Singapore by a group of Chinese immigrant (sic). During then (sic), plates of raw fish slices are (sic) served with little ingredients and it was a trial-and-error potluck with bottles of vinegar, oil, sugar on the table for customers to add to their own taste. It is commonly found in Fish Porridge stores where groups o Cantonese were seen poking away along streets and alleys of the old Singapore.

Inspired by the above, our funder (sic) Master Chef Hooi Kok Wai began to work with three other Master Chefs (Sin Leong, the late Tham Mui Kai and Lau Yoke Pui), to transform the pot-luck disk into a Chinese New Year Delicacy. They concocted a unique sweet sour sauce, assembled other colorful ingredients to symbolize prosperity in Chinese culture, and finally, “The Original Singapore Yu-sheng” is created, and made its debut on restaurants (sic) tables in 1963.

Instantaneously, the Chinese were fascinated with the stirring & tossing gestures (pronounced Cantonese “Lo-Hei”) of the dish. This “Lo-hei” gesture symbolized the sharing of joy, everlasting good luck and prosperity. It became an adapted local custom to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and the Chefs were honored as the “Four Heavenly Kings” in the Chinese Culinary world.

… and today: Yusheng ‘definitely not from Singapore’, says restaurateur

Another salvo fired in the Great Culinary Heritage Wars!

Update 5 Feb 2012:

Another article in the Straits Times.

The four Heavenly Kings:(from far left) Chefs Hooi Kok Wai, Tham Mui Kai, Sin Leong and Lau Yoke Pui recieved Achievement Award in 2007 at the Tasty Singapore Chef Restaurant Association Competition for creating the raw fish salad as seen here in a file photo.

Now they claim they never invented the dish. And everyone is pushing the origin date further and further back – from 1964, to the mid-1950’s, and now 1930.

My take? The hamburger originated in Germany, but is prepared, sold and eaten worldwide. Countless variations exist, from kimchi and teriyaki chicken to foie-gras.

Does the winner of the “Yu-Sheng Wars” get to collect royalties from every plate of Yusheng sold? The idea of having good food, is so it can be enjoyed and celebrated, to be thankful for.

Sin Chew Daily runs a piece that says the ‘fight for face’ is ‘meaningless and unnecessary’. Not only meaningless and unnecessary. Pedantic, small-minded, anal.

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