I NEED TO EAT 尋味之旅

Lo hei – Singapore’s collaborative Chinese New Year dish 撈起:深受新加坡人喜愛的農曆新年菜式

Discovery - - CONTENTS - JaniceLeungHayes是居於香港的飲食作家

OBSESSIVE : JANICE LEUNG HAYES MILES TRAVELLED : 1,609 (HONG KONG – SINGAPORE)

THERE’S A BIG platter in the middle of the table. As someone tosses slices of raw fish onto it, we all cheer: nin nin yau yu. Then the carrots go in, and it’s a roar of hong wen dong tau. Everyone puts their chopsticks in and mixes the ingredients together, tossing them as high as they can. This goes on for a while, as various components of our lo hei are thrown in.

Lo hei, also known as yee sang or ‘prosperity toss’, is a raw fish salad eaten during Chinese New Year, popular among Chinese communities in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Everyone gathers around the table as ingredients are added one by one, while saying auspicious greetings. Each ingredient is usually a homonym of a word in a classic New Year saying. For instance, in nin nin yau yu (‘let there be abundance every year’), yu is the pronunciation for both ‘abundance’ and ‘fish’.

In Cantonese cooking – the Chinese cuisine I know best – uncooked foods aren’t generally eaten. That’s not the case with Chaozhou cuisine (also known as Teochew and Chiuchow). Though the city is in eastern Guangdong province, its people have always identified as Chaozhou, rather than Cantonese, and proudly hold onto their own dialect and cuisine. There’s a large contingent of Chaozhou people in Singapore.

Eating raw fish remains common in Chaozhou, but the tradition of eating lo hei as a convivial group activity is believed to have emerged in Singapore in the 1960s. Many say that the idea came from the chefs at Lai Wah Restaurant, an old-school Cantonese eatery that opened in 1963.

The practice has spread far and wide, and it’s hard to imagine a Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore without a joyous volcano of sliced fish, julienned vegetables, crispy wonton skins and crushed peanuts accompanied by eruptions of laughter and greetings.

Many Singaporean families make it at home, but restaurants are intent on oneupping each other each year. One of the most decadent is found at Shang Palace, in the Shangri-La Singapore – last year, ingredients included poached lobster, abalone, edible flowers and dried figs.

The dish has also arrived in Hong Kong. Modern Chinese restaurant Ho Lee Fook offers its own spin (top), using hamachi sashimi and sweet and sour yuzu and plum dressing.

Janice Leung Hayes is a Hong Kong-based food writer 尋味者: JANICE LEUNG HAYES旅程哩數: 1,609

(香港─新加坡)

桌子中央有隻大圓碟,有人將各式生魚片放進去時,我們就歡呼:「年年有餘」;然後再放進紅蘿蔔絲,大家又歡呼:「鴻運當頭」。接著眾人將筷子伸進碟裡,將所有材料拌在一起,拌的時候要將材料盡量翻起,翻得愈高愈好,然後一面翻一面說「撈起、撈起」。每放一種材料進碟裡,就重複這儀式一次,直到全部材料都放進去為止。

撈起又稱為七彩魚生,有風生水起的含意,是農曆新年時必備的菜式,深受新加坡、馬來西亞及印尼的華人喜愛。吃這道菜的時候,眾人齊集桌旁,將材料逐樣逐樣加進碟裡,再用筷子翻攪,一面攪一面說些吉祥的話。每種材料通常都與農曆新年常用的吉祥字詞同音,例如魚寓意年年有餘,祈願生活豐足,綽有餘裕。

中國各種菜系裡,我對粵菜最為熟悉,據我所知,粵菜很少有生食的菜式,但潮州菜例外。潮州位於廣東省東部,但當地人都自稱是潮州人而非廣東人,並對自己的家鄉話與家鄉菜深感自豪。新加坡就有不少潮州人。

食魚生在潮州人之間依然十分普遍,但是一群人於農曆新年時歡聚一堂吃魚生的習俗,相信是在1960年代的新加坡流行起來的。很多人都認為,這道菜是 1963年開業的傳統粵菜館麗華酒家的幾位大廚想出來的。

從此撈起這道菜式廣為流傳,農曆新年期間的新加坡到處都可見到這樣的情景:堆成小山一般的生魚片、切成細絲的蔬菜、鬆化的薄脆和花生碎,以及不時爆出的歡笑聲與祝賀語。現在很難想像,一個沒有撈起的農曆新年是怎樣的。

新加坡很多家庭都會在家裡自製撈起,但是餐廳菜館則會挖空心思,務求出奇制勝,為客人奉上別出心裁的撈起。其中新加坡香格里拉大酒店的粵菜廳香宮的版本可說窮奢極侈:去年的撈起材料包括清蒸龍蝦、鮑魚、可供食用的鮮花和乾無花果。

撈起這道菜現已傳到香港。新派中菜餐廳口利福創製的自家撈起別有獨特風味(上圖):油甘魚刺身配上用柚子及梅子製成的酸甜醬汁,令人垂涎。

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