My all time favorite part of Chinese New Year and I love it all the more because it really is only done here on this tiny island and nowhere else in the world. I have been lo hei-ing like crazy this year, at least quite a lot for the angmoh charboh that I am, and now consider myself something of an expert…
For those who aren’t sure what I am talking about, lo hei is a special Chinese New Year dish made up of, amongst other things, strips of raw fish (usually salmon), shredded white radish, shredded green melon, carrot, toasted sesame seeds, pomelo and plenty of different sauces. Everything served in this dish has some sort of significance for what you hope the forthcoming year will bring: the salmon stands for abundance, pepper is added to symbolize the hope of attracting more money, there is oil to make for a smooth year ahead and the bit I can always remember is the crunchy golden ‘coins’ scattered on top to signify, yes, you’ve guessed it, more money.
The waiter is in charge of delivering all the blessings and knows all the various meanings of each ingredient as most Singaporeans (or maybe it’s just the guys I know) argue rather extensively about what means what, invariably with a rather rusty working knowledge of Chinese.
The fun part is all standing to toss the salad as high as you can (usually with extra long chopsticks they specially provide) and shouting your various wishes…and then of course eating it to make sure all your wishes come true.
It’s a really fun starter to replicate at home, either by (painstakingly) sourcing and shredding all the ingredients yourself or, if you are like me, by buying the sets always on sale over CNY from either department stores or restaurants (even Ikea sells them) and serving them up with a crib sheet of what symbolizes what so you can sounds frightfully knowledgeable. The easiest starter known to man…and even more fun if your guests are not Chinese or Singaporeans and don’t know any of the traditions.
Restaurant wise, if you are outsourcing, I love lo hei in Min Jiang (Goodwood Hotel) or at Crystal Jade Golden Palace on the 5th floor of Paragon or, my new esoteric find, at the East Ocean Teochew Restaurant at Shaw Centre. (Golden Palace can do your blessings in English as well as Chinese, which doesn’t sounds quite right but at least means you know what is being said).
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Read my post on making pineapple tarts here