Year of the Tiger Culinary Journey in Yi Sang Restaurants
“Auspicious dishes,” as they are playfully called, are the many traditional dishes eaten during the Chinese New Year, says Patricia Ng, deputy chief executive of Almond Group.
“Each year our culinary team creates new dishes to usher in the new year and their sound and meaning will resonate with the theme of this new year,” she explains to me as she begins to take me into a culinary and cultural journey that the lucky customers of his restaurant Yi Sang will take this year to salute the Year of the Water Tiger 2022.
Sitting at a family table adorned with beautiful works of art in this charming and elegant Yi Sang restaurant, Patricia tells me how, since it opened in 2008, it is now the flagship of two other Yi Sang restaurants, one located in Tuol Kork and the other along Riverside, as well as Sevensea Seafood Restaurant, and helped it become a nostalgic brand known now by many Phnom Penh locals who covet authentic Cantonese cuisine.
A curated list of special dishes and set menus has been prepared to usher in this year’s Chinese Lunar New Year at these restaurants. “Traditional Chinese dishes are not easy to cook and require a lot of labor and long hours of slow cooking and braising, so many people come to the restaurant where they know we are cooking these traditional dishes for the New Year’s Eve reunion dinner. An.”, explains Patricia, also pointing out that “many ethnic Chinese cannot return home this year due to the difficulty of traveling at the moment with restrictions in different countries”.
Traveling thousands of miles for such a special occasion to reunite with family and friends is even more understandable when it comes to feasting on the exquisite dishes they have prepared at Yi Sang.
Among them, a sample of perfectly cooked fried prawns, in a light and fragrant mayonnaise sprinkled with grated and fried carrots, bursting with the flavor of large mushrooms stuffed with salted duck egg and drowned in a delicately balanced abalone sauce, and of course, the melt-in-your-mouth braised pig’s trotters bathed in a succulent tangerine and red bean sauce accompanied by their ‘special fried rice’. Patricia explained to me that pig’s trotters, like chicken trotters, better known in Chinese as ‘phoenix claws’, traditionally represent the belief that ‘when you reach out your hand during the New Year, what comes back during the rest of the year, it’s health. and wealth.
There is also a very special element of attraction on the New Year’s menu at Yi Sang.
“We have a dish in Malaysia and Singapore that we will never miss during Chinese New Year and it’s called ‘Lo Sang or Yee Sand’,” Patricia said.
“It’s a salad dish with salmon sashimi or whatever seafood you want, and it’s mixed in a really good honey sauce with lots of grated vegetables, and each vegetable has a different meaning. In the tradition to serve this, it means when you pour this honey mandarin sauce, it means your whole year will be blessed with sweetness.
New Year’s Eve dinner usually starts with this mixed salad by everyone at the table, standing and using their chopsticks to toss it, while saying aloud to each other wishes for good luck and happiness for the coming New Year .
I feel the anticipation of this moment coming when I see the large plate of Lo Sang salad being brought to the table with its bright and colorful arrangement of shredded vegetables, salmon sashimi and gold nuggets.
Before performing the Lo Sang eating ritual, Patricia shows me the impressive and varied menu filled with mouth-watering dishes, and highlights what sets Yi Sang apart from other restaurants.
“We use quality ingredients and not only do we source them locally, but we pride ourselves on getting the freshest organic, pesticide-free produce,” she tells me, adding, “We have 6-8 herbal soups as well. only thick soups and have to cook up to 8 to 10 hours, while some up to 12 hours. This is the time we invest in our soups. Not just the ingredients, but it’s the care we put into our soups that brings out the best in the flavors and nutrients that make us different.
Yi Sang is very popular as a Dim sum breakfast and noodle restaurant and at lunch, Cantonese roast duck dishes are also very popular, which are made with organically farmed pork directly from Kulen.
When a number of guests join us at the table around the Lo Sang, we are all treated to a guided explanation of dressing the Lo Sang salad before its ritual toss, and the significance of each of the salad ingredients by the Yi Sang F&B. director, Mr. Francis Lee, recently arrived from Malaysia.
“Good luck and good health for the whole year,” he said solemnly, referring to the salmon before pouring it over squeezed lime juice and saying, “keep it safe.”
Patricia then intervenes to explain: “Food comes with beautiful words, and here for that she wishes you longevity and annual success.
Before adding a mixture of sesame powder, black pepper and spices to the dressing and explaining its meaning, Francis simply says: “Forever young”.
Whirling a small bowl of sesame oil, he said, “All is going well for the year ahead.”
While in another of a mixture of honey and lime; “Sweet and happy in your life.”
Gold nugget fried wonton strips are “everyday gold, wishing you prosperity and wealth” and Pomelo which in Chinese is similar to the word “got” which means to have in the salad means to wish everything you want to get for the year.
The moment finally arrives when we all have to grab our chopsticks, get up and reach for the salad to start tossing all its delicious contents with the vinaigrette while singing our best wishes for the new year aloud.
Patricia leads the way; “May you all have good health, enjoy the year of the Water Tiger, be successful in whatever you do, and stay kind,” she says, as Francis reminds us; “The higher you throw it, the better.”
A joyful and memorable way to start the new year.
The menu is available from January 20 to February 15 on site, for delivery or to take away. There will also be a lion dance on February 2 at 9am (Yi Sang Sothearos and Almomd hotel) and 10am (Sevensea Seafood & Almond Hotel Bassac River). The lion dance during Chinese New Year represents joy and happiness, brings good luck and wards off evil. Don’t forget to “roar” on the auspicious occasion with Yi Sang’s other famous Cantonese roast dishes like roast duck or Peking roast duck or slow-cooked nourishing Chinese herb soups for a more prosperous celebration !