Today is yuan xiao, the last day of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. The Chinese put aside 15 days of every year to celebrate its New Year, and it is universally practiced, wherever the Chinese are.
And in true Chinese fashion, food figures extensively in these celebrations. In Singapores, droves of Chinese families, including mine, headed for our favourite dining haunts, whether it is to a traditional Chinese restaurant, or to a Western restaurant servings potatoes and steaks, or to a Japanese sushi joint, or even an Italian restaurant. You name it, in Singapore, we have it. The Chinese in Singapore is a cosmopolitan lot.
But what marred the evening for me was the unending stream of people who came by the particular restaurant I was queueing up at buying take-away yusheng, that Chinese salad mix of raw fish, syrup, nuts and possibly 8 types of vegetables. I was about to say 'herbs and spices' but there really isn't much of it in this concoction, except Chinese pepper powder. The restaurant was kept so busy that I had to wait about 45 minutes before I could get a seat in the restaurant. I warned my partner not to order the dish as I knew that she was a salad junkie, even at $38.80 a pop!
Truth be told, this salad concoction is anything but traditional. It only became fashionable (yes, that's the right word to use) in the last 10 years or so, and in keeping with the occasion, it goes for $18.88 to $1,888 (and then some) depending on the serving size, and I suppose the type of fish and the brand name. The Chinese believe that taking this salad-like concoction will bring them good luck, good fortune, good health, etc. etc. when you, together with the family and friends, 'toss' the salad and mix in the raw fish, communal fashion, and chant 'God of Fortune, bring good wealth, good health, good fortune, money money money...' (you can sing the money part to the tune made famous by ABBA). The Chinese, they are crazy, about money!
Well, to me, the only people this concoction benefit are the sellers. The sellees, uh, buyers, are the fools. When ever has the toss of salad and fish ever brought anything good each year? Establishing the correlation is, at best, pseudo-science, at worse, it is no more than shamanism. Ok, I am mixing up culture and language, but you get what I mean, right? And yet, however shrewed the Chinese are reputed to be when it comes to making a buck, they just burn up their money, very willingly I assure you, at the very next turn that yusheng is sold. Really, only one type of people (and it need not be Chinese) who are assured of a fortune in plying this dish are the restaurants, who just cannot keep up with the orders from the long queues that do not stop forming up outside their shops. It is at these time that one dreams of owning a restaurant, preferably a Chinese restaurant. The money is so easy when you have an army of gullible and foolish queuees in front of your restaurant. Heck, even the Supermarkets have jumped on the bandwagon and hawk these concoctions, making tonnes of money in the process.
For the rest of us, may what we have tossed for come true. If not, there is always the next Chinese New Year to toss again. You did ask to live at least another year in your toss, didn't you?
I hope then to be the seller, not the sellee.