(TL;DR) No one remembers how to lou hei, so we teach you how. You’re welcome.)
Chinese New Year is here, and with it comes the age-old tradition of eating Yu Sheng, a salad with raw fish that has a very precise way of serving, called lou hei, where the addition of each ingredient comes with an associated greeting.
Let’s face it, no one ever remembers how to lou hei, and we all breathe a sigh of relief when the waitress offers to read the greetings for us. Little do we know, the ingredients and greetings that we use are filled with rich Chinese history and culture, and remembering what ingredients go in and the greetings we use with them will actually help us better appreciate the tradition behind this yummy dish.
Here’s a breakdown of the sequence of ingredients, and tips to remember what greeting comes with it.
Before you begin, offer new year greetings to everyone at the table. You could just go for the classics, like 恭喜发财 (Gong Xi Fa Cai): “Congratulations for your wealth”, and 万事如意 (Wan shi ru yi): “May all your wishes be fulfilled”.
Words: 年年有余 (nian nian you yu): Inviting abundance, excess throughout the year
How to Remember: 余 (excess) and 鱼 (fish) are both pronounced yu.
Words: 大吉大利 (Da ji da li): Great luck and prosperity
How to Remember: 大利 (big luck) sounds like 大粒 (large round object), as the pomelo’s round shape symbolises a whole and complete family.
Words: 招财进宝 (Zhao cai jin bao): Invite in wealth and money
How to Remember: Think of the spices as a precious resource (宝), as they were in Chinese history.
Words: 财源广进 (Cai yuan guang jin): Wealth and good fortune to flow in
How to Remember: The pouring of the oil supposed to represent the wealth and good fortune literally flowing into your home.
Words: 鸿运当头 (Hong yun dang tou): Good luck approaches
How to Remember: 鸿 (hong) sounds like 红 , which corresponds to 红萝卜 (carrots)
Words: 青春常驻 (Qing chun chang zhu) May you stay forever young
How to Remember: 青 in the phrase means green, as in green radish.
Words: 风生水起 (Feng sheng shui qi) exponential growth like the wind and waves
步步高升 (Bu bu gao sheng) growth at every step (relating to job promotion).
Words: 金银满屋 (Jin yin man wu): May your home be filled with gold and silver
How to Remember: Imagine sprinkling gold and silver throughout your home the way you’re sprinkling the peanuts, a popular snack that was eaten exclusively by the rich Chinese.
Words: 生意兴隆 (Sheng yi xing long): May you have a great and booming business.
Words: 遍地黄金 (Bian di huang jin): May you see gold wherever you look
How to Remember: The flour crisps are shaped like golden pillows.
Once you’ve put all the ingredients together, everyone come together to toss all the ingredients together 7 times with loud shouts of 捞起 (lou hei) and other auspicious New Year wishes. The higher you toss it, the “higher” the luck!
If you still can’t remember which comes first and what comes after, here’s a quick infographic to help you remember!
Save this in your phone right now ^^