February 10 2010
Mark C O’Flaherty
Singapore celebrates Chinese New Year in predictably lavish style. Along with all the red and gold illuminated street décor, it has its own unique and decadent tradition to bless the Year of the Tiger with good fortune: this is the city that invented the Prosperity Yu Sheng Salad, and the restaurant in which to order it until the end of February is Cassia, the most refined contemporary Chinese restaurant in the city, at the Norman Foster-designed Capella resort.
Before ordering my clear soup in coconut served theatrically on a cloud of dry ice, I took instruction this week in how to tackle the Yu Sheng. It’s far more fun than a fortune cookie: 18 ingredients, including pomelo, jellyfish, carrot and dried melon are presented unmixed in colourful piles on a plate, with two ornate red packets, one containing pepper and one filled with cinnamon. The contents go on (“double the joy, prosperity and good health”), as does a bowl of oil, plum sauce, and crackers to represent gold nuggets, and then everyone at the table takes a pair of gigantic chopsticks and tosses as enthusiastically as possible. The higher the toss and the more the mess, the better the fortune for the year.
The Yu Sheng comes in raw salmon ($48), lobster ($88) and abalone ($128) versions, but no matter which one you order, make sure you leave some on the plate to “signify abundance” (and to leave room for chef Ooi Soon Lok’s revelatory wagyu beef entrée).