IPOH: Every Chinese New Year, the snakehead (a carnivorous fish) is the food of choice for many as they celebrate the seventh day of the festival – a day dedicated to the human race.
There is a great demand for the fish on the seventh day, which falls today, because its name, sang yue, in this Cantonese-speaking city symbolises longevity and good health.
It is also a delicacy and believed to be a folk remedy for a wide variety of ailments, including wound healing.
Its flesh is mixed with other items in soups, noodle dishes and porridge but during the Chinese New Year, this fish is eaten raw, tossed in the colourful yee sang, or raw fish salad.
For yee sang, the raw fish slices are dipped in Chinese wine and mixed with pickled papaya, ginger, onion, cucumber, radish, carrots, jellyfish, coloured yam in green and red, pomelo, sesame seeds and crackers.
Farmer Liew Kwet Jong, 38, catches the fish at a pond in his farm in Kanthan Baru, Chemor, about 12km from here, instead of buying them from the market.
“Pieces of the fish will be added when my wife prepares yee sang for the whole family, as it is believed that we will have good health and luck throughout the year.
“The seventh day is an important day because it marks everyone’s birthday,” he said.
Fish breeder Liew Chee Wai, 40, from Kampung Tawas here said fish was an auspicious dish during the festival.
“The Cantonese phrase nin nin yau yue is a homophone which means one will be blessed every year,” he said.
The carp or lei yue is also another popular fish during the Chinese New Year as the word lei means profit in Cantonese.