What is the Laba Festival?
Eight Treasures Porridge, also known as Babao Porridge, Laba Congee or Buddhist Porridge, is a traditional food for the Chinese Laba Festival, which falls upon the 8th day of the 12th lunar month. As its name, it originally refers to the porridge made of eight kinds of ingredients. Nowadays, the ingredients are from more than eight types. In the past, people ate the porridge to keep warm and celebrate the Laba Festival. Today it has been a home-style snack in everyday life. People in different areas cook the porridge with different nutritious ingredients, which usually are of four types – rice, beans, dried fruits and Chinese herbs.
As a traditional Chinese festival celebrated by Han nationality, Laba Festival is regarded as the prelude to the Chinese Spring Festival. It falls on the eighth day of the twelfth month of Chinese lunar calendar (usually in January of the next year in Gregorian calendar). The twelfth month is called ‘La month’ and eight is pronounced as ‘Ba’ in Chinese. So, the festival is thus named. As people make and eat rice porridges to celebrate the day, it is named the Rice Porridge Festival as well.Because of all kinds of nutrient-rich ingredients contained in the congee and the easy cooking method, Eight Treasures Porridge now is popular throughout China. If well cooked, the gruel tastes sweet, soft and smooth, not greasy at all.
How to Make Laba Porridge
The ingredients of Laba Porridge (or Congee) are various items that are full of nutrition. It is made of diversified rice (glutinous rice, oats, corns etc.), beans (soy beans, mung beans, kidney beans, cowpeas etc.), dried nuts (chestnuts, almonds, peanuts, etc.), bean curd and meat. Melon seeds, lotus seeds, pine nuts, sugar, and other preserved fruits are added to give more flavors. After 10 centuries of development, there are now over one hundred different cooking methods.After hours of boiling, the porridge is offered as a sacrifice to the ancestors and is presented to friends before noon. Family members eat Laba Porridge together and leave some, symbolizing a good harvest next year. Some kind people hand out the porridge to the poor to show their pity. And in some regions people believe that pasting porridge on the flowers and fruit trees indicates the blossom of flowers and good fruition.Laba porridge is not only easy to prepare, but also a nutritious winter food because it contains amino acids, protein, vitamins and other nutrition people need. Cooked nuts and dried fruit are good for soothing nerves, nourishing one’s heart and vitality, and strengthening the spleen. Perhaps that is why it is also called babao (Eight Treasure) porridge.Laba Porridge is now regarded as a very nutritious food in winter that has the function of strengthening the spleen, stimulating the appetite, and soothing the nerves. It is welcomed by all people of different ages.