Next Wednesday will be one of the Chinese traditional festivals – Laba Festival ( 24th. Jan. 2018), 8th Dec. in the lunar year. Maybe you haven’t heard of it as the way we celebrate it is not as ceremonious as we do to Spring festival.
The reason why we call it ‘腊八’ because it takes place in the 12th month of the lunar calendar. The 12th lunar month in Chinese is called ‘La’ and eight is pronounced ‘Ba’. This is how the name ‘Laba’ was derived.
During that day, people will cook one special food called Laba porridge (腊八粥- làbā zhōu) and share it with all family members. Apart from it, Laba garlic (腊八蒜- làbā suàn) is another popular food, which is particularly popular in northern China.
Let’s first take a look at these two popular Laba food! 😛
「腊八粥」 – làbāzhōu
‘腊八粥‘ (làbāzhōu) is traditionally served on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month. ‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu）is also known as eight treasure porridge. The common way of making ‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu）is to boil rice, millet, glutinous millet, glutinous rice, chestnuts and dried dates. Then, add peanuts, almonds, walnuts, melon – seed kernels, dried fruits and brown sugar to make the gruel not only delicious but also nutritious.
In fact, the ingredients used in ‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu) are unlimited. It can include anything one deems precious, nutritious, tasty or good for the health. You can also add red beans, pine nuts, or more expensive lotus seeds, lily, ginkgo seeds and longan.
The dish is very tasty with its combination of colourful and sweet ingredients, so eating it is not limited to only the eighth day of the 12th month. Chinese people enjoy eight treasure porridge throughout the year!
「腊八蒜」 – làbāsuàn
Eating Laba garlic is also a custom, particularly in the north of China. The materials to make it are extremely simple, just vinegar and garlic petals. First, put the rinded garlic petals into a jar or a flask, then pour some vinegar until the vinegar submerges all the garlic petals, then sealed the jar, put it in a cold place. Slowly, the vinegar-drenched garlic petals turn green and finally transform entire body green as emerald jades.
It is not certain whether ‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu） originated in China, but one thing is for sure — the history of ‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu） can be traced back to ancient times when the eighth day of the 12th lunar month was considered a day for animal sacrifice.
The introduction of ‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu) on this day was first observed in the Song dynasty (960—1279), some 1,000 years ago. According to written records, large Buddhist temples would offer rice porridge, with other spices, on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month, a Buddhist festival day for followers to show their faith to Buddha.
By the Ming dynasty (1368—1644), ‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu) had become such a holy food that it was a customary festival gift the emperors offered to their officials.
As ‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu） gained the favour of the feudal upper class, it quickly became popular throughout the country.
‘腊八粥’（làbāzhōu) is billed by traditional Chinese medicine as a health food that is particularly good for the spleen, stomach and blood.
I am going to make myself a warm bowl of porridge in this winter, and you? 🙂