Tossing Up Prosperity
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
Chinese New Year is a festive season full of tradition and culture for the people of the orient. During this season, it is tradition that all families gather together to greet the New Year. The first day of the Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February and the festivities continue for many days on end.
One important part of Chinese New Year is Yee Sang, (which could be translated to ‘Prosperity toss’) which is a dish served only during this festive season. Alongside the Chinese New Year celebrations on 12 February 2021, Hilton Colombo held their traditional Yee Sang tossing to commemorate the festive occasion. Leading the tossing was Executive Chef Robert Mujagic and Creative Director Kay Ng who enlightened us on the symbolic nature of Yee Sang.
We learnt from Creative Director Ng that Yee Sang is a dish served with the purpose of welcoming and wishing prosperity for each other. Because of that, each of the ingredients used for Yee Sang has its own symbolic meaning.
Ingredients such as raw fish (salmon), as well as shredded vegetables such as carrots, white radish and green radish are used which symbolise abundance through the year, good luck and prosperity in business as well as promotion at work and eternal youth, respectively.
These, along with many other ingredients such as golden pillow crackers, which signify gold are laid out on a platter apart from each other, and then sprinkled with pepper, which symbolises the hope of attracting more money and valuables. Crushed peanuts, which signify a house full of gold and silver as well as sesame seeds, which symbolise prosperity of business are sprinkled on top.
Oil is poured out on the ingredients, which symbolises money flowing from all directions. Alongside that, plum sauce is drizzled over all the ingredients as well, which represent the wish that life may be sweet.
While we may not understand the connection between each ingredient to the respective symbol, a native speaker of the Chinese language would understand right away, since a lot of wordplay is involved with the reason behind these specific ingredients to be chosen.
With the preparation all done, the Yee Sang is ready for the next step; the tossing.
Tossing up the salad
With all the elements ready, all that’s needed is to toss the salad.
To perform the tossing, all the diners at the table must stand up and proceed to toss the ingredients, mixing the ingredients and each element of the dish together. However, while doing so, the participants must shout out various auspicious wishes.
Because of the many health and safety precautions brought on by the ongoing pandemic, Executive Chef Mujagic and Creative Director Ng demonstrated the ceremonial tossing while the rest of the group joined in by shouting out wishes of prosperity for the group.
We also learnt that the higher the toss, the more prosperity is invited in, which is why the tossing is encouraged to be done with enthusiasm. Needless to say, one shouldn’t get carried away and let food be wasted in the process.
For family and friends
As you might think, Yee Sang is a lively moment that is usually shared with family, friends or even colleagues at work. After Yee Sang is tossed, the dish is served and shared among the group as a salad, before the main meal is served.
With the start of a new year (this one being the Year of the Ox according to Chinese tradition), the tradition of Yee Sang is a great way to welcome prosperity for all, as the whole country recovers from the aftermath of the past year’s calamities. Let us all be strong as oxen and work towards prosperity
(Pix by Ashan Gamage)