When the National Environment Agency (NEA) banned the sale of raw freshwater fish in all food establishments in December 2015, hotels and restaurants came up with alternatives for their yusheng, or raw fish salad, during the last Chinese New Year.
With the ban still in place this year, many hotels and restaurants are using cooked ingredients in their yusheng dishes, while some have introduced more exotic seafood options.
At least three restaurants are featuring poached crab on their platters. As it is the Year of the Rooster, some restaurants are also using chicken or chicken bak kwa.
Yusheng is a quintessential part of the lo hei tradition, in which diners toss the salad while spouting auspicious sayings.
In a statement to The Sunday Times, the NEA and Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said that consuming raw freshwater fish "poses a significant food safety risk as they have higher bacterial contamination than saltwater fish".
The ban came after an outbreak of more than 350 Group B streptococcus bacteria infections and two fatalities. About 150 cases were linked to the consumption of raw freshwater fishes such as toman (snakehead) and song fish (Asian bighead carp) that are typically eaten with Chinese porridge.
While the traditional yusheng dish does not use freshwater fish, but saltwater fish such as ikan parang and salmon, hotels and restaurants remain mindful that diners may still be wary of consuming raw fish.
Stalls in hawker centres and coffee shops require approval from the authorities to sell raw saltwater fish dishes. Restaurants do not as they source the fish from AVA-approved suppliers and follow stringent food hygiene and storage standards.
As of last month, 32 eateries, including restaurants and hotels, have been approved to sell raw saltwater fish dishes.
Park Hotel Clarke Quay is offering a yusheng with poached Sri Lankan crab. The hotel's banquet chef, James Wong, 51, has noticed that about 60 per cent of customers who have booked festive dinners have opted to upgrade from yusheng with raw salmon to its Tower of Fortune crab meat lo hei.
He says crabs are a symbol of prosperity and success, as the first word of the Chinese term for crabs (pang) sounds like the term for top scorers in the ancient Chinese imperial examinations.
Man Fu Yuan at InterContinental Singapore is rolling out a black truffle yusheng with poached Hokkaido crab meat, fried silver bait fish and fruit.
The hotel's executive chef Eric Neo says: "Hokkaido crab meat retains its natural sweetness even when cooked."
The restaurant also offers yusheng with other cooked ingredients such as lobster and abalone and also with raw salmon.
Chef Neo still expects a "positive response" to the traditional yusheng as "raw fish has always been a key ingredient in yusheng for its auspicious significance".
Other restaurants are upping the ante by using more exotic raw seafood.
For instance, one-Michelin-starred Summer Pavilion at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore will serve a Japanese sea urchin and bluefin tuna yusheng.
Peony Jade, which has two outlets, at Keppel Club and Clarke Quay, continues to offer raw lobster and conch from Canada in its two yusheng dishes, which are fashioned in the shape of a rooster.
The restaurant has added more options for cooked ingredients such as poached conch and blue swimmer crab, as well as launched a vegan-friendly fruit yusheng this year.
Some diners are split between sticking to yusheng with raw fish and trying other versions with cooked ingredients. Creative director Wilson Wang, 28, who eats sashimi regularly, says: "To be safe, I buy sashimi-grade tuna and salmon from Japanese fish markets to add to my yusheng at home."
Music producer Magdalene Chow, 37, is not bothered by the raw fish scare. "I eat Japanese food regularly. It is weird to have cooked food in yusheng."
Yusheng with cooked ingredients
RICE OF THE PHOENIX YUSHENG
This chicken rice-inspired yusheng contains fried dehydrated jasmine rice, chicken bak kwa, boneless chicken feet, chicken floss, deep- fried chicken skin and slivers of Maine lobster sashimi. Top it off with garlic chilli and green vinegar sauces, garlic chicken oil, Japanese cucumber and tomato jelly strips.
Where: Carousel, lobby level, Royal Plaza on Scotts, 25 Scotts Road
When: Jan 20 to Feb 11
Open: 6.30am to 9.30pm daily
Price: From $188 for four to six people
Info: Available for both dine-in and takeaway, order three days in advance. Call 6589-7788 or go to www.carouselbuffet.com.sg
SALMON AND SHREDDED CHICKEN YUSHENG
This Sichuan-style yusheng features slices of boiled chicken and raw salmon. Instead of the usual Sichuan black peppercorn, the dish comes with a sauce made from green peppercorns, minced spring onions and fragrant cane pepper.
Where: Sichuan Dou Hua, Parkroyal on Beach Road, 7500 Beach Road
When: Jan 9 to Feb 11
Open: 11.30am to 10.30pm daily
Price: From $68 for four to six people
Info: Available for both dine-in and takeaway, order one day in advance. Call 6505-5722 or go to www.sichuandouhua.com
TOWER OF FORTUNE CRAB MEAT LO HEI
Poached crab meat is the star of this towering lo hei built with eight layers of ingredients: carrot, kailan, white and green radish, and three types of sweet potato crisps sprinkled with sweet snow pear.
Prawn rolls topped with salmon roe surround the tower.
Where: Park Hotel Clarke Quay, 1 Unity Street, Van Kleef room
When: Jan 20 to Feb 11
Open: Three seatings available at noon, 6 and 8.30pm
Price: $88++ for 10 people
Info: Available for dine-in only, order at least two days in advance. Call 6593-8825/59 or go to www.parkhotelgroup.com/clarkequay
BLACK TRUFFLE YUSHENG WITH HOKKAIDO CRAB, SILVER BAIT FISH AND FRESH FRUIT
This yusheng is designed to look like a rooster and is made of ingredients such as Hokkaido crab meat, crispy silver bait, shredded radish, carrots, black truffle slices and fruit on a bed of puffed rice and pok chui crackers. It comes with a truffle-infused sour plum sauce.
Where: Man Fu Yuan, Level 2 InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Road
When: Tomorrow to Feb 11
Open: 11.45am to 3pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 11am to 3pm (Sundays), 6.30 to 10.30pm (daily)
Price: $138++ for eight to 10 people
Info: Available for dine-in and takeaway, order at least three days in advance. Call 6825-1007/1224 or go to singapore.intercontinental.com/cny
PROSPERITY YUSHENG WITH POACHED LOBSTER, SMOKED SALMON AND GRAPE VINEGAR DRESSING
Purple reigns in this yusheng, which has purple lettuce, purple sweet potato chips, beetroot and a grape vinegar from Japan. It also comes with slivers of poached Canadian lobster and smoked Norwegian salmon.
Where: Shang Palace, Level 3 Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, 22 Orange Grove Road
When: Jan 16 to Feb 11
Open: Noon to 2.30pm (weekdays), 10.30am to 3pm (weekends); 6 to 10.30pm (daily)
Price: $328 for 10 people
Info: Available for dine-in only, order at least three days in advance. Call 6213-4398 or go to www.shangri-la.com/singapore
CHICKEN BAK-KWAH YUSHENG
This bak kwa yusheng also has 18 other ingredients such as pickled green peach and leeks, shredded potato, taro, white and green radish, preserved orange peel, pomelo and calamansi juice.
Where: Wan Hao Chinese Restaurant, Level 3 Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, 320 Orchard Road
When: Jan 9 to Feb 11
Open: Noon to 3pm (weekdays); 11.30am to 3pm (weekends), 6.30 to 10.30pm (daily); 6 to 10.30pm on Chinese New Year's eve)
Price: From $68 for six people
Info: Call 6831-4605 or go to www.singaporemarriott.com/cny
PEARLS OF LONGEVITY FRUIT YUSHENG
Enjoy a fruit-full toss with mango, rock melon, honeydew, pomelo and pomegranate topped with enoki mushroom and slices of konnyaku jelly that bear an uncanny resemblance to raw fish slices. A sauce of tangy persimmon, salted prune, osmanthus syrup and rice vinegar offsets the sweetness of the fruit. Available for dine-in or takeaway.
Where: Mitzo, Level 4 Grand Park Orchard, 270 Orchard Road
When: Jan 14 to Feb 11
Open: Noon to 2.30pm (daily); 6.30 to 10.30pm (Sundays to Wednesdays) , 6.30pm to 1am (Thursdays to Saturdays)
Price: From $38++ for four to six people
Info: Call 6603-8855 or go to www.mitzo.sg
This yusheng from vegetarian restaurant Elemen contains black truffle, shredded red cabbage, beetroot, carrot and radish, fruit and garnishes such as dried tangerine peel, and sour white ginger, lime and melon strips. Sprinkles of sesame and peanuts add to the finishing touch.
Where: Elemen, 01-75 Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard; 01-113 Thomson Plaza, and 301 Upper Thomson Road
When: Jan 16 to Feb 11
Open: 11.30am to 4pm, 5 to 10pm daily
Price: From $38.80++ for three to four people
Info: Call 6238-0511 (Millenia Walk) or 6452-0351 (Thomson Plaza) or go to www.elemen.com.sg
Yusheng with raw exotic ingredients
JAPANESE SEA URCHIN AND BLUE FIN TUNA YUSHENG
This seafood yusheng has bluefin tuna and sea urchin. The platter also contains daikon, turnip, Chinese shrimp crackers, five-spice powder and a sauce made with plum sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.
Where: Summer Pavilion, Level 3 The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue
When: Jan 16 to Feb 11
Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6.30 to 10.30pm, daily
Price: From $138 for four people
Info: Available for dine-in and takeaway, order one day in advance. Call 6434-5286 or go to www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/ singapore/dining/summer- pavilion
INSTANT ENORMOUS WINDFALL, GOOD HEALTH AND LONGEVITY YU SHENG
Two visually arresting rooster- shaped yusheng headline the 10 festive dishes that Peony Jade has created.
Its Keppel Club outlet serves a yusheng which contains raw seafood such as lobster and conch from Canada, Norwegian salmon and poached two-head golden abalone from Australia. It is topped with gold dust.
At the Clarke Quay outlet, the yusheng (above) features lobster, abalone, conch and prawn roe with garnishes such as sweet-and-sour Buddha's hand citron fruit and a dramatic chicken tail made from fruit such as kiwi and strawberries.
Where: Level M Keppel Club, Bukit Chermin Road; and 02-02 Block 3A Clarke Quay
When: Jan 7 to Feb 28
Open: 11am to 2.30pm, 6 to 11pm (weekdays); 10am to 3pm, 6 to 11pm (weekends)
Price: $268.88 for 10 to 12 people (for both yusheng)
Info: Available for dine-in only, order one day in advance. Call 6276-9138/6375-5562 (Keppel Club) or 6338-0305 (Clarke Quay) or go to peonyjade.com
ARCTIC SURF CLAM LOHEI
The hokkigai, or surf clam, usually enjoyed as sashimi, is making its debut in Hua Ting Restaurant's yusheng.
Accompanying the shellfish in the dish are julienned radish, yam beans, mesclun greens, red ginger and jellyfish. The platter is crowned with yam crisps, pomelo and lemon leaves.
Where: Hua Ting Restaurant, Level 2 Orchard Hotel, 442 Orchard Road
When: Jan 9 to Feb 11
Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm (weekdays); 11am to 2.30pm (weekends); 6 to 10pm (daily)
Price: From $68 for four to five people
Info: Call 6739-6666 or go to www.orchardhotel.com.sg
HOKKAIDO SCALLOP YUSHENG
Hokkaido scallops take centre stage in this yusheng, which also contains jellyfish, carrots, lettuce and pomelo. Other seafood top-up options include geoduck and lobster.
Where: Seafood Paradise, 02-03, Level 2 Dining, Marina Bay Sands
When: Jan 15 to Feb 12
Open: 11.30am to 3.30pm, 5.30 to 11pm, daily
Info: Available for both dine-in and takeaway. Call 6688-7051 or go to www.paradisegp.com