You guys ready to officially usher in the Year of the Ox or what?! Chinese New Year is here — and there is no livelier tradition than the tossing of yusheng to rake up good fortune.
The tossing of yusheng is a boisterous, heart-warming affair where family and friends gather closely around a round plate filled with colorful vegetables. It’s not uncommon for excited kiddos to scramble onto the table to get closer to the epicenter of action.
Armed with chopsticks with loud shouts of “HUAT AH!”, colorful raw vegetables are repeatedly tossed in the air — as high as possible — since traditions declare that the higher you toss, the better your prospects for the new year ahead.
There are new rules of engagement for lohei this year though. Masks on, no shouting — and some restaurants are even providing gloves and extra long yusheng-distancing chopsticks. Store-bought yusheng is typically high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat. According to Health Xchange, one serving of store-bought yusheng will cost you over 500 calories, which is quite a fair bit considering that it’s just a starter.
The calorie bombs in store-bought yusheng:
- The plum sauce: It’s basically loaded with sugar, instead of real plums.
- The five spice powder: Again, more sugar than spices really.
- The pickled ginger: Both red and green pickles in store-bought yusheng are typically soaked in sugar and preservatives. The sugar also helps preserve them and keep them from going bad too quickly.
- Deep-fried crackers: These golden pillows are deep fried and high in saturated fat.
This year, we’re making the extra effort to make our own raw vegan yusheng, since the dish has all the makings of a delicious, nutritious meal. Bonus points for you if you shape your colorful veggies into a cute Oxen, as we did.
To make this a vegan yusheng, we substituted salmon sashimi by slicing tomatoes into thick slabs to look like it. As you add the tomato “sashimi” to your plate of yusheng, remember to recite the auspicious sayings — it’s all part of the festive fun. 年年有余!
Ingredients for the Raw Vegan Yusheng
For the vegan yusheng:
- 130g plum tomatoes, sliced thinly to resemble sashimi
- 2 cups pomelo, peeled and shredded out of its sac
- 2 cup mandarin orange, peeled and shredded out of its sac
- 1 cup Chinese Parsley
- 3 small carrots, julienned. Soak in water to reduce hardness.
- 2 daikons, julienned
- 1 cucumber, julienned
- 1 red bell pepper, julienned
- 2 tbsp ground almonds
- 2 tbsp pickled ginger
- 1 tbsp toasted white seasame seeds
- 2 tbsp plum sauce
- ½ tbsp sesame oil
- 2 sheets nori
For the Chinese Plum Sauce:
- 2 small red plums, peeled and dehydrated
- 2 pieces dried apricots, soaked in water until plump
- ¼ cup filtered water
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- 2 tbsp Eucheuma cottonii paste
- ½ tbsp ume plum paste
- ½ tbsp grated ginger
- ½ tsp chilli power or cayenne powder
Blend all the ingredients until creamy and smooth. Taste to check for flavoring and add spices accordingly. The Chinese Plum Sauce should be a fine balance of sweet, sour, salty and piquant, with a honey-like viscosity. You may store in an airtight jar in the fridge and use it for up to 3 to 4 weeks.
For the Five Spice Powder:
- 2 tbsp ground star anise
- 1 tbsp ground cassia cinnamon
- 1 tbsp ground fennel seed
- ½ tbsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
- 1 tsp ground cloves
Add all ground powder into a jar and mix well. Store in pantry and use it as a herb spice for cooking.
For the pickled ginger:
- 2 cups young ginger, sliced finely
- ¼ cup brown rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp filtered water
- 2 tsp beet juice
- ½ tsp sea salt
Massage the julienned ginger with sea salt, set aside for 30 minutes for the ginger to soften. Rinse ginger under running water, pat dry and place in a jar. Add the vinegar, maple syrup and beet juice and mix well. Top with 1 tbsp of filtered water. Let it marinade overnight before using. Store it in your refrigerator and use it for up to 3 to 4 weeks.
Auspicious sayings to accompany each addition:
- Tomato salmon: 年年有余 | Every year there’s abundance and surplus.
- Pomelo: 大吉大利 | Wishing you good luck and good prosperity.
- Five Spice Powder: 招财进宝 | Usher in wealth, fortune and treasures.
- Sesame Oil: 财源广进 | Wealth and profits rollin’ in.
- Carrot: 鸿运当头 | Good fortune abound.
- Green Radish/Cucumber: 青春常驻 | Eternal youth.
- Daikon: 风生水起 | Progress as swift as the wind.
- Crushed Peanuts/Almonds: 金银满屋 | Gold and silver will fill your house.
- Sesame Seeds: 生意兴隆 | Your businesses flourish.
- Golden Crackers: 满地黄金 | Gold fills the floor in abundance.
- Chinese Plum Sauce: 甜甜蜜蜜 | A sweet, happy life.
- 捞起; 恭喜发财, 万事如意 | Toss; greet each other with blessings of good fortune.
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