Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Malaysian Chef Tommy Lai Creates Unique Lunar New Year Dish

NEW YORK, Jan 15 (Bernama) -- Celebrity Malaysian Chef Tommy Lai, who is the first Malaysian chef to earn a Michelin star in New York, has created what is described in local culinary circles as a "unique Lunar New Year dish" to mark the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration.

The Lunar New Year celebration, a common annual feature in Malaysia, is widely celebrated in New York. Lai told Bernama that his creation called "Yu Sheng" -- in Cantonese it means "raw fish salad" -- will be served at his restaurant, Rasa, in New York's Greenwich Village to usher in the Year of the Horse. The dish will be served in two portions -- medium for four persons and large for six persons -- priced at US$18 and US$28 (about RM60 and RM90), respectively.

Rasa is one of the three Malaysian restaurants to open in the New York/New Jersey region in 2013.

Lai maintained that US$1 (about RM3.30) from each Yu Sheng dish sold will be donated to City Harvest, a food rescue organisation dedicated to feeding hungry New Yorkers. The Yu Sheng dish will be served from Jan 16 to Feb 9 (the first day of the Lunar New Year officially begins on Jan 31).

Rasa, which is run by Lai and his sister Cammie Lai and two others, has been well received by New Yorkers since it opened in December 2013. Rasa was named after the village in Malaysia where the Lai siblings grew up.

Explaining the origin of the name of the new dish, a restaurant employee said that "yu" meant fish in Cantonese while "sheng" meant raw.

He added that the two words together meant "raw fish salad" and is considered a "good luck dish" -- the number 8 in the pricing is considered lucky in Chinese and so are the 28 ingredients used in the preparation of the dish -- which Malaysian and Singaporean families crave to have during the Lunar New Year.

Adding to the "mysticism" is the mandatory "lo hei" (prosperity toss) denoting the higher you toss or mix the raw-fish salad, the "rosier" is the future of the person. The gesture of tossing high, as the Chinese like to believe, brings in more money and prosperity in the New Year.

Rasa, which is also registered under the Malaysia Kitchen Programme (MKP) of the New York Office of the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), features not only Malaysian dishes but also dishes inspired by the siblings' travels in Southeast Asia.

The MKP was initiated by the Malaysian government to promote Malaysian cuisine in a number of markets with the long-term intention of promoting Malaysian ingredients, spices and ready food products.

Rasa serves traditional Malaysian dishes, and street food like Penang Assam Laksa, Yong Tau Foo Curry Mee and Hokkien Prawn Mee take centre stage alongside Rasa's new creations such as the popular Asian Rolls which include sambal and curry satay stuffed rolls. There are also, of course, the inevitable roti canai, Malaysian cup cakes, Malay curried wings and mini curry puffs.

Chef Lai also presents traditional comfort foods that are unique to Malaysia's Chinese, Malay and Indian ethnic communities such as Wat Tan Hor, Nasi Lemak and Indian Mee Goreng, respectively.


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