Ask anyone who celebrates Lunar New Year and almost all will have childhood memories that are rooted in its festive feasts. For me growing up in Singapore, that one must-have dish to make a Lunar New Year dinner complete is Yusheng, or Yee Sang, as it is called in Cantonese.

Traditionally this raw fish salad is the first dish served, and the art of eating it is known as lo hei, which translates to mean ‘upward toss’ in Cantonese. Auspicious-sounding ingredients are added - fish slices for abundance, crackers for wealth, plum sauce for sweetness etc.

Then the fun begins as we stand around the table, chopsticks in hand, to toss the ingredients - the higher the throw, the better your luck will be.

Now as you do the toss, you’ll also be exclaiming greetings and good wishes for the New Year. Yusheng has its roots in China dating more than 2000 years ago during the Zhou dynasty, but Cantonese and Teochew migrants brought this practice to South East Asia and beyond.

So gather your friends and loved ones and toss your way to a prosperous new year with lo hei.

Huami Lunar New Year
Huami lion dance

My choice for best hotels in the city to celebrate Lunar New Year:

To partake in yusheng in the city, head to Huami's Nectar where the dish features in its festive sharing menus for $998 (5-7 pax) or $1,398 (8-12 pax).

Hilton Auckland’s Bellini’s Lunar New Year High Tea, a collaboration with Comvita honey, offers beautiful creations including fried bread buns with smoked custard, hoisin smoked chicken sandwiches, orange almond cupcakes, “breath of the dragon” meringues and smoking dragon fruit icecream bonbons. $89 pp.

Park Hyatt’s Onemata has special multi-course set menus for a minimum of two diners offering a prosperity jade green superior broth, pan-fried fish fillet with black bean sauce, roasted drunken chicken and braised baby pāua.The special runs from February 9 to 11 and can be elevated with an add-on of a buttery crayfish tail with pumpkin.

Hilton LNY high tea
Huami yusheng

But not every celebratory meal has to be a massive feast, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful Lunar New Year-inspired festive options too.

Biang Biang Noodles on Queen Street is paying homage to the dragon with its special “baby dragon noodles”. These noodles are topped with yabbies, called xiao long xia in Mandarin or baby dragon shrimps, and you get a choice of either spicy or with garlic sauce.

Or have NeNe Chicken’s Mala chicken - a numbing and spicy combination of Sichuan peppercorns, chilli pepper and spices that’s flavouring up its Lunar New Year offering.

No Lunar New Year season can pass without eating dumplings. Dumplings resemble the gold ingots of ancient China, and are said to represent fortune and prosperity in the coming year. There’s a little stall on Federal Street called Little Tiger Dumpling worth checking out. Go for the juicy “three delicacies” one on the menu, and choose to have them either steamed or fried.

Nene Chicken
Little Tiger Dumplings
Biang Biang noodles
Last updated: 09 February 2024