Hands up those of you who, like me, often get stuck at what to say when we are going to lo hei (Cantonese for “tossing luck”) the Chinese New Year raw fish dish of Yu Sheng. Those of us whose England is better than our China will be fumbling for the Mandarin auspicious words traditionally said when the dish is being served and more likely than not, could only muster the two most easily remembered phrases which are Gong Xi Fa Cai (“Wishing you wealth”) and Tian Tian Mi Mi (“Have a sweet honeyed year”).
Anyway, I have since learnt to dance my way round it by just uttering well wishes in English because, as far as I’m concerned, blessings work in every language! But then, there will be purists at the table who would insist that “you must say the right thing for each ingredient!” Sure, Auntie, but seriously, with so many new types of Yu Sheng offered these days – from Japanese-styled types with sashimi and wagyu beef, to truffle oil replacing the sweet plum sauce, etc – it can be quite tough going trying to pair the right phrase to the exact stuff.
Of course, if you have a well-versed waiter or waitress who could do it well, that will be the perfect thing and you simply just need to repeat after him or her, or say “Hao (Good)” after each phrase. However, this usually only happen in proper Chinese restaurants as other eateries – from Japanese to Italian – are not going to do so as they are not trained for it and they are already sporting enough to provide the yusheng when asked.
So, when the need arises, here’s a list of the 12 most important Mandarin auspicious sayings you can use during yusheng lo hei. Remember, it doesn’t really need to hit the right ingredient, but hei, if you can, good for you!
1. Gong Xi Fa Cai – Wishing You Wealth – Wish everyone at the table before the toss
2. Nian Nian You Yu – Year Year Got Fish or Abundance throughout the Year – Raw Fish
3. Da Ji Da Li – Big Luck and Prosperity – Pomelo
4. Zao Cai Jin Bao – Gather Wealth and Treasures – Pepper or Spices
5. Hong Yun Dang Tou – Good Luck Be Upon You – Carrots or Pickled Red Ginger
6. Sheng Ti Jian Kang – Good Health – Green Radish
7. Bu Bu Gao Sheng – Career Advancement – White Radish
8. Cai Yuan Guang Jin – May Wealth Flows In All Directions – Oil
9. Tian Tian Mi Mi – Sweet Honeyed Year – Sweet Plum Sauce
10. Jin Yin Man Wu – Gold and Silver Fill Your Household – Crushed Peanuts
11. Sheng Yi Xing Long – May Your Business Flourish – Sesame Seeds
12. Pian Di Huang Jin – All Roads Paved with Gold – Crispy Crackers
When tossing, feel free to utter other blessings – and blessings only, mind – such as “More Long Weekends”, “More Pay Less Work”, “No More Transport Fee Hikes” etc. And remember, the higher you toss, the more prosperity you will have. But take care not to make a mess of the table yah? You still have to eat the stuff to make the blessings complete!
Wishing one and all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous Year of the Horse!