Yu Sheng

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Chinese Heritage Cooking

Chinese Heritage Cooking

By Christopher Tan and Amy Van

Published 2018

  • About

In the 1960s, respected Singaporean chefs Tham Yui Kai, Sin Leong, Lau Yoke Pui and Hooi Kok Wai were known affectionately as the Four Heavenly Kings. Wanting to create a special Chinese New Year dish, the four chefs took a simple raw fish salad common to both Cantonese and Teochew traditions in coastal Guangdong, eaten particularly on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year: they added to it intentionally symbolic and colourful ingredients, a sweet-tangy sauce, and a communal way of presenting, tossing and enjoying the salad. This is yu sheng, which has in the years since been further transformed and elaborated into a luxurious, not to say over the top, showpiece by posh restaurants. This recipe harkens back to the less glamorous but still “Heavenly” version.



  • Fresh red plums 2, halved and pitted
  • Water 5 Tbsp
  • Honey Tbsp
  • Lemon juice or rice vinegar 1 Tbsp
  • Sugar ½ Tbsp
  • Salt ¼ tsp

Fresh Vegetables

  • Carrot 130 g ( oz)
  • White daikon radish 130 g ( oz)
  • Pink pomelo flesh 75 g (2⅔ oz), flaked apart into sacs
  • Spring onions (scallions) 2
  • Kaffir lime leaves 3
  • Red chilli 1, deseeded


  • Wolf herring (ikan parang) fillet 150 g (5⅓ oz)
  • Salt 1 tsp
  • Prepared jellyfish 60 g ( oz)

Preserved Items

  • Finely shredded pickled papaya 2 Tbsp
  • Finely chopped candied tangerine peel Tbsp
  • Finely shredded pickled ginger Tbsp
  • Finely shredded red pickled ginger 1 Tbsp
  • Very thinly sliced pickled shallots 1 Tbsp

Crisp Items

  • Toasted white sesame seeds 2 Tbsp
  • Crispy dough flakes 100 g ( oz), or to taste
  • Finely chopped roasted peanuts 60 g ( oz)


  • Peanut oil 50 ml (1⅔ oz)
  • Calamansi limes 2
  • Ground cinnamon ¾ tsp
  • Ground white pepper ¾ tsp


  1. Prepare sauce. Place ingredients for sauce in a blender and process until smooth. Scrape mixture into a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil over low heat, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain sauce into a bowl. Let cool completely.
  2. Prepare fresh vegetables. Peel carrot and daikon. Cut both into long, thin julienne with a mandoline or julienne cutter. Soak julienne in cold water for 20 minutes to make them crisp and juicy. Just before serving, drain them and dry them very well in a salad spinner or with clean tea towels. Slice spring onions on a sharp diagonal into short lengths. Remove thick veins from lime leaves and cut leaves into hair-fine shreds with a sharp knife. Slice chilli into very thin long shreds.
  3. Prepare seafood. Rub fish with salt and let stand, loosely covered, for 15 minutes. Rinse fish well, pat dry, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze for 30 minutes to firm up flesh. Unwrap and slice fish across the grain into very thin pieces. (Slicing thinly reduces the fish's internal fine bones into tiny, edible fragments.) Fan out fish slices on a small plate. Rinse jellyfish and pat dry.
  4. Prepare condiments. Heat peanut oil in a small pot until a light haze forms above it. Turn off heat and let it cool completely. Pour oil into a bowl. Halve calamansi limes. Place cinnamon and white pepper in paper envelopes.
  5. Assemble yu sheng. Mound carrot and daikon julienne in the centre of a very large platter. Arrange the other fresh items, jellyfish, preserved items and crisp items in separate small mounds around the julienne. Place sauce, fish, oil, cinnamon, pepper and calamansi limes in their separate dishes on the table.
  6. To serve yu sheng, squeeze calamansi limes over fish. Remove lime seeds and mix fish well with lime juice, then place fish slices on top of carrot and daikon julienne.
  7. Sprinkle cinnamon and white pepper all over main platter. Drizzle sauce (you don’t have to use all of it) and oil all over main platter.
  8. Give all the diners long chopsticks. Let everyone stand up and toss the yu sheng ingredients together, lifting them high above the dish, until everything is well mixed. Everyone then serves themselves a portion on a small plate.
  9. Traditionally, diners intone wishes for the new year as the ingredients are added and tossed. These may include: lo hei (stirring up luck), nian nian you yu (abundance every year), da ji da li (prosperity and good fortune), bu bu gao sheng (rising success), feng sheng shui qi (luck overflowing), jin yin man wu (gold and silver fill the house), tian tian mi mi (life will be sweet), zhao cai jin bao (attracting treasures), qing chun chang zhu (perpetual youth), and so on.