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It's Laba again; porridge time

2010-01-22 11:16 BJT


Free Laba porridge is handed out in Shanghai Thursday January 21, 2010, in run-up to the traditional Laba Festival that falls on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month. It's customary on this day to eat Laba porridge. Recipes of the traditional congee varies, though generally includes glutinous rice, dried lotus seeds, longan, gingko, dried red dates, chestnuts, peanuts, walnuts, raisins and melon seeds. The Laba Festival is on Friday this year.[Photo/CFP]
Free Laba porridge is handed out in Shanghai Thursday January 21, 2010, 
in run-up to the traditional Laba Festival that falls on the 8th day 
of the 12th lunar month. It's customary on this day to eat Laba porridge.
Recipes of the traditional congee varies, though generally includes 
glutinous rice, dried lotus seeds, longan, gingko, dried red dates, 
chestnuts, peanuts, walnuts, raisins and melon seeds. The Laba Festival
is on Friday this year.[Photo/CFP]

China possesses many traditional holidays, of which Spring Festival is the most important and the most exciting. An extended celebration of the Lunar New Year that lasts for several weeks, Spring Festival encompasses the Laba Festival, Little New Year, Lunar New Year's Eve, Lunar New Year's Day, and the Lantern Festival. Every year, with the coming of the last month of the lunar year, the holiday spirit fills the land. The Laba Festival, which falls on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, marks the official start of Spring Festival.

The tradition of eating Laba porridge was based in religion, though with time the food itself became a popular winter dish especially in cold northern China.

Laba porridge is made with local specialties such as ginkgo fruits, water chestnuts, chestnuts, lotus seeds and red beans in addition to the rice. Actually eight ingredients are used, cooked with sugar to make the porridge wonderfully sweet. Northerners prefer to use glutinous rice, red beans, dates, lotus sees, dried longan pulp, walnuts, pine nuts and other dried fruits in their porridge; southerners like a salty porridge prepared with rice, soybeans, peanuts, broad beans, taro, water chestnuts, walnuts, vegetables and diced meat. Some people like to add cinnamon and other condiments to inject flavor. Controlling the heat is of great importance in the outcome. At the start, the flame must be high, but the fire is then turned down to let the porridge simmer until it begins to emit avery delicious smell. The process is time-consuming but not complicated.

Laba porridge is not only easy to prepare, but also a nutritious winter food because it contains amino acids, protein and other vitamins people need. Cooked nuts and dried fruit are good for smoothing nerves, nourishing one’s heart and vitality, and strengthening the spleen. Perhaps that is why it is also called babao (Eight Treasure) porridge.

In addition to Laba porridge, many different types of pickled vegetables and special dishes are popular during Laba Festival, including garlic pickled in vinegar (Laba garlic) and pickled Chinese cabbage. In northern Shaanxi Province, it is obligatory to eat Laba noodle soup, made with eight different shredded ingredients. In the Tongguan-Lintong region of Shaanxi Province, Laba noodle soup is made with hot chili peppers. Hot Laba wine is popular all over China during Laba Festival.

Backround Reading: Laba Festival

This holiday may be traced back to the ancient Chinese custom of sacrificing game to the ancestors during the last month of the lunar year. Following the ritual, the participants feasted together on the sacrificial meat in an early expression of the Chinese tradition of communal eating. The Laba Festival is popularly referred to as Laji Festival (End-of-Year Sacrifice Festival), another indication of its ancient origins and association with early sacrificial rituals.  For Detail>>