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The Laba Porridge

2016-04-15 17:18:24Share:

  A touching story goes that when Sakyamuni, the first Buddha and founder of the religion, was on his way into the high mountains in his quest for understanding and enlightenment, he grew tired and hungry. Exhausted from days of walking, he passed into unconsciousness by a river in India. A shepherdess found him there and fed him her lunch—porridge made with beans and rice. With such nourishment he was able to continue his journey.

The Laba Porridge


  After six years of strict discipline, he finally realized his dream of full enlightenment on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. Ever since, monks have prepared rice porridge on the eve ad held a ceremony the following day, during which they chant the sutras and offer porridge to Buddha. Thus, 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.

The Laba Porridge


  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 a very 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.


  Laba rice porridge was first introduced to China in the Song Dynasty about 900 years ago.


  According to written records, large Buddhist temples would offer Laba rice porridge to the poor to show their faith to Buddha. In the Ming Dynasty about 500 years ago, it became such a holy food that emperors would offer it to their officials during festivals. As it gained favor in the feudal upper class, it also quickly became popular throughout the country.

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