Hard Rock Hotel's Chinese New Year 2014 Menu Tasting

"Gong Xi Fa Cai Wan Shi Ru Yi!" It's a common greeting traded during Chinese New Year, meaning "Congratulations for your wealth, may all your wishes be fulfilled." It is the time in Indonesia where those with Chinese relatives or friends would expect to receive some Kue Keranjang or Dodol Cina. The sweet delish would then be eaten as it is, steamed, or fried with egg batter.

While some people in the hotelier industry prefers the term "Lunar New Year," it is a less common term to be used in Indonesia since there are many other ethnicities and religion using their own lunar based calendar. Instead, Lunar New Year in Indonesia is better known as "Imlek."

It is also the time when both amateurs and pro photographers in Jakarta, Surabaya, and other Indonesian big cities joined the mass praying at temples, to catch a glimpse of the beautiful ceremony.

An early celebration

Afar from the celebration, about a month before the actual ceremony happened, there was another sort of celebration happening at Hard Rock Hotel Bali, a lunch feast!

Hard Rock Hotel was hosting a "Chinese New Year Menu Tasting" attended by people from the media, including news reporters, writers, magazine editors, broadcasters, and yours truly.

While it's a full scale buffet lunch serving various kind of delicious goodies, the highlight of this Chinese New Year Menu Tasting is "Lo Hei Yu Sheng," or "Prosperity Toss."

Lo Hei Yu Sheng

While the Yu Sheng itself is a traditional dish of China resembling salad with raw fish, doing Lo Hei Yu Sheng during Chinese New Year is a custom established and popularized by Chinese people of South East Asia. The ceremonial toss itself is symbolize the hope of prosperity and longevity in the new year.

The custom was brought forward by Chinese living in Singapore where in the 60s four legendary chefs "Four Heavenly Culinary Kings" created the modernized version of Yu Sheng. While the original Yu Sheng uses raw carp, the renewed Singaporean prefers to use wolf herring, which later (current) version now uses sashimi grade raw salmon which is more palatable to the modern taste buds.

Lo Hei Yu Sheng is done with mixing various ingredients in a big table, each symbolize different meaning and wishes. After mixed together the compound are then tossed into the air by the diners using chopsticks.

Since the height of the toss symbolize the height of a diner's growth in fortune, it is expected for Lo Hei Yu Sheng participants to toss the dish enthusiastically.

After Mr. Andrew Khoo's opening speech, followed by Fandy Lo's introduction about the history of this custom, the guests are then invited to join Chef Low Keng Meng at the round table to start the Lo Hei Yu Sheng.

A table of Yu Sheng, ready to be messed up.

This is the table prepared for Yu Sheng. As you can see there are many ingredients presented, each with specific meanings, and according Wikipedia are mixed according to following procedure:
  1. To start, participants gathering around the table saying Gong Xi Fa Cai meaning “Congratulations for your wealth,” Wan Shi Ru Yi, meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled.”
  2. The fish is then added, symbolising abundance and excess through the year. Nian Nian You Yu meaning “Abundance through the year”, as the word "fish" in Mandarin also sounds like "Abundance".
  3. The pomelo or lime is next added to the fish, adding luck and auspicious value. Da Ji Da Li meaning “Good luck and smooth sailing”
  4. Pepper is then dashed over in the hope of attracting more money and valuables. Zhao Cai Jin Bao meaning “Attract wealth and treasures”
  5. Then oil is then poured out, circling the ingredients and encouraging money to flow in from all directions. Yi Ben Wan Li meaning “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital” Cai Yuan Guang Jin meaning “Numerous sources of wealth”
  6. Carrots are added indicating blessings of good luck. Hong Yun Dang Tou meaning “Good luck is approaching”. Carrot is used as the first character also sound like the Chinese character for red.
  7. Then the shredded green radish is placed symbolising eternal youth is added. Qing Chun Chang Zhu meaning “Forever young”. Green radish is used as the first character also sound like the Chinese character for green.
  8. After which the shredded white radish is added - prosperity in business and promotion at work. Feng Sheng Shui Qi meaning “Progress at a fast pace” Bu Bu Gao Sheng meaning “Reaching higher level with each step”
  9. The condiments are finally added: First, peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish, symbolizing a household filled with gold and silver. Jin Yin Man Wu meaning “Household filled with gold and silver”
  10. Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business. Sheng Yi Xing Long meaning “Prosperity for the business”
  11. Yu Sheng sauce, usually plum sauce, is generously drizzled over everything. Tian Tian Mi Mi Meaning “May life always be sweet”
  12. Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows is then added with wishes that literally the whole floor would be filled with gold. Man Di Huang Jin meaning “Floor full of gold”
After the mixture is ready, all of the participants starts on cue to toss the ingredients into the air, practically mixing the ingredients together. One messy but fun stuff to do! And if you think you're a master with chopsticks, the version used in this Lo Hei Yu Sheng is almost three times longer and many times heavier than your regular chopsticks, so tossing and messing the ingredients around requires extra attention.

It was fun!

How does Yu Sheng tasted? 

As the tossing ends, and laughters settled, I quickly grabbed some of the salmon poking out from the now messy mounds, and some of the colourful mound of vegetables. On a quick note the dish tasted like Asinan Bogor for its mixture of flavour, but a lavish one since it incorporates the creamy salmon sashimi, the nutty sesame seed oil, and the delicate sweetness of plum sauce.

After the second trip of Yu Sheng, I then decided to follow the crowd trying out the rest of the dishes served.

Some sushi and sashimi to follow up on that Yusheng.

And followed through with the big boys' meal of roasted beef.

However after rounds of inspecting and trying around, I found myself settled on the assorted cold dishes and salad; my favourite table.

There were other stations presented, like the noodle soup, pork ribs, and other Asian dishes prepared by Chef Low Keng Meng crew, and a table full with delicious desserts, one of Hard Rock Bali's specialities, but I don't thing any of the guests managed to eat through them all.

Orange to symbolize the sun/gold/fortune, a mandatory fruit for the festive season.

And different with other Bali based invitations, this time I got a company from a fellow foodie who's happen to be visiting; it's @melbudiman from Jakarta.

Thank you Hard Rock Hotel Bali for the invitation, and Gong Xi Fa Cai Wan Shi Ru Yi to all our friend celebrating Chinese New Year! (byms)