Culture Bridge: Chinese La-ba Festival

The Laba Festival 臘八節/腊八节) is celebrated on the eighth (ba 八) day of the 12th month (la yue 腊月) and is one of the most important traditional festivals in Chinese culture. It is also a prelude to the Chinese Lunar New Year. This year the La Ba Festival falls on Jan 27.
The festival was originally a day of thanks for a good harvest and sacrifice to ancestors. The festival was used as commemoration of Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment at the age of 35. Therefore, many customs of the Laba Festival are related to Buddhism.  In the Qing dynasty, ceremonies for the Laba festival would have been held in the Yonghe Temple in Beijing.
Elderly having their laba porridge on the laba festival

Elderly women eating laba rice porridge on Laba festival

Customs:

Ancestor worship (祭祖jì zǔ):

The reason lunar December is called La Yue has a lot to do with the custom of sacrifice. First, the worship of ancestors and the sacrifice for the gods both frequently took place in the twelfth month, which led to the traditional name of the month: La Yue(腊月). Second, winter is the slack season for farmers so they have time to find things to burn in the sacrifice.
Ancestor worship

Ancestor worship

Laba Rice Porridge (腊八粥 là bā zhōu): There are several legends about the origin of porridge eating on Laba:

Siddhārtha Gautama (the Buddha) once attempted to find the right path to awakening by starving himself. One day, when he was starved and weakened, he met a village girl who gave him milk and rice pudding (congee) after mistaking him for a spirit who granted her a wish. He attained enlightenment not long after that incident. Some say the porridge, made of red beans, has the power to exorcise evil from little kids.
Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, used to live in poverty before he rose to power. He ate congee during those hard times. After becoming the emperor, he asked the people to eat congee as well. The custom of porridge eating has been well-known throughout history, from the royal court to common people. Almost every region in China has its own local recipe for Laba porridge. Eating hot porridge is great in cold winter, and the grain and nuts are considered healthy winter fare.
Laba porridge is mostly made of rice and sticky rice, but can also include sugar, red dates, lotus seeds, walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, longans, hazelnuts, raisins, red beans, peanuts, water caltrops, roseleaf and other “treasures” (hence its other name, “eight treasure porridge”).

Laba porridge is mostly made of rice and sticky rice, but can also include sugar, red dates, lotus seeds, walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, longans, hazelnuts, raisins, red beans, peanuts, water caltrops, roseleaf and other “treasures” (hence its other name, “eight treasure porridge”).

Laba garlic (腊八蒜 là bā suàn): It is an old Beijing custom to soak purple-peel garlic with vinegar and a little sugar for twenty days starting from the Laba festival. When the whole family gets together for the dumpling feast on Spring Festival Eve, they take out the Laba garlic which will be crisp, with a vinegary flavor and a green color.

Vinegar with the aroma of garlic is the best seasoning for dumplings.

Vinegar with the aroma of garlic is the best seasoning for dumplings.

Beating Spring Ox:

On the first day of spring the government would hold a ceremony called “Beating Spring Ox” with the purpose of encouraging farming.  After the ritual of “Beating Spring”, people would compete in grabbing the scattered pieces of the earthen ox, which would dispel pests or ants, and bring them good harvest in farming and abundant production of silk and livestock.

Officials  using a colorful club to beat an earthen ox after worshiping the God of Grain; this was the so-called “Scourging Spring”.

Officials using a colorful club to beat an earthen ox after worshiping the God of Grain; this was the so-called “Scourging Spring”. Even today, people in some places name Spring Begins as Beating Spring.

Info-bits:

1. The most authentic porridge is made in Northern China, especially Beiping (北平).

2. Customs of having La-ba porridge is preserved in Northeast China, Northwest China and Jiangnan but it has become rarer in Southern parts of China.

3. During the rule of Qing dynasty, ceremonies for the Laba festival would have been held in the Yonghe Temple in Beijing.

Source: Wikipedia & hujiang;    Pic source: hujiang and google search.

Changchun’s First Frozen Restaurant

长春现冰餐厅 cháng chūn xiàn “ bīng cān tīng ”

Have you ever imagined yourself sitting in a freezer and having lunch????

Yes, in a freezer…

If it is so, then you could make it a reality by just visiting Changchun, Jilin Province, China.

ICe restaurant Changchun (4)

Entrance to the Restaurant..

This restaurant is now a coolest place to hangout to enjoy some spicy hot pot. Customers can have hotpot and drinks in the ice rooms and enjoy “extreme ‘chill’ax sleep” on ice beds.

People

Customers having Hotpot ..

Frozen bar

Customers having drinks in the ice bar..

This newly-opened ice restaurant and bar is decorated with colorful lights which add warmth and brightness to the icy rooms, reported China News Service. The dining establishment also features a small “guestroom” where visitors can hop on an ice bed and pose for photos. Covering an area of 80 square meters, the ice restaurant was built by 20 workers in half a month.

Frozen bar

Frozen bar

Ice restaurant Changchun (5)

A girl posing on an ice bed for photos..

Well, I would have had my taste buds taste a real ‘cool’ thing if they would have built it couple of years ago… 😛

Source: Chinanew.com

Beijing Diaries: Life in Monochrome- I

Beijing Diaries (4)

Qianmen Avenue: Time runs too fast at this place.. One of the most happening places in Beijing..

Paifang is a traditional Chinese architectural gating style as an arch. This have been derived from the torana temple-gate in ancient India, though it has taken on traditional Chinese architectural characteristics such as multi-tiered roofs, various supporting posts, and archway-shapes of traditional gates and towers. Source: Wikipedia

Paifang is a traditional Chinese architectural gating style as an arch.
This have been derived from the torana temple-gate in ancient India, though it has taken on traditional Chinese architectural characteristics such as multi-tiered roofs, various supporting posts, and archway-shapes of traditional gates and towers. Source: Wikipedia

Beijing local Motor Vehicle transport: Very accessible, cost effective and illegal transport..

Beijing local Motor Vehicle transport: Very accessible,quick &  cost effective for small distance travels..

Korean local foods on Beijing streets.. fish cakes  may be?

Korean local Foods on Beijing Streets.. Fish cakes ?

A man checking the map whether he is lost or not.. :P One of the best part of this city is that every bus stop and subway has a city map.. Very useful for travellers..

A man checking the map whether he is lost or not…
One of the best part of this city is that every bus stop and subway has a city map.. which is useful for travellers & Beijingers..

Panjiayuan Antique Market: Best place to explore in Beijing to know the Chinese history and arts.

Panjiayuan Antique Market: Best place to explore to know the Chinese history and arts.

A ‘life’ ly snack – Crispy Sugar coated haws

Bing-tang hulu or Sugar-coated Haws is a popular traditional snack and also most authentic snack of Beijing. This candied fruit symbolizes happiness and reunion for most of the Chinese people. The traditional method of making candied haws is to string wild fruits on bamboo sticks and then dip them in malt syrup. The malt syrup turns hard as soon as it is exposed to the air, creating the crispy and sweet sugar-coated haws

Sugar coated haws-Bingtang hulu

Bing tang hulu.. looks yummy isn’t it?

The bright, lovely haws on the prod look like a string of small red lanterns, with a sweet and sour taste. The outer layer of sugar is crisp, but the haws are soft. When I was making a conversation with an old man he told me that previously there were only haws. Just a fews years back this candied fruit has took a turn with a touch of innovation starting sugar-coating strawberries, bananas, oranges, honey dates, cashews, bean pastes, chestnuts and chocolate. I like Sugarcoated haws and strawberries alot. I never even dared to taste other sugar coats because by the time I see these haws I get tempted to get it. So frankly speaking I never created an opportunity to taste them 😛

Health benefits: These sugar coated haws also helps in digestion, also rich in Vitamin C & E, carotene and other nutrients. These are also rich in dietary fibers. And is a good antioxidant rich food that can improves immunity. This lowers bad cholesterol and blood pressure also.

 

You can find a stall here displaying many Sugar-coated Haws stuck in a log, looking like a small tree. A stick of Sugar-coated Haws only costs RMB 2-3, and popular with locals and tourists alike.

A stall on the road displaying many Sugar-coated Haws. A stick of Sugar-coated Haws costs RMB 2-3, You can even get it at 1rmb also but with seed and low quality taste.

Ups & downs of life:

Once upon a time I went to Gongzhuling to celebrate Mid autumn festival with my friend Mike’s family. On the eve we all went to a public park to see celebrations. While we were in the park aunty bought bingtang hulu for all of us. While eating, Houlin’s dad told us that he always remembers his childhood days whenever he eats this fruit. That sour and sweet taste represents the ups and downs of life. Sweet is compared to the ups and sour is compared to the down of life.

Now, when I was writing about this fruit, it reminded me of my college life which left both memorable and learning experiences, indeed both have their own footprint on me. My true friends lifted me up and helped me through all the bad/learning time. I’m missing them a lot as we don’t get a chance to interact with them as often as we used to during our college days. I should specially thank those who doubted me and hated me because they eventually made me grow strong.

Imperative thing is that many people around me have their own set of opinions on me, few accepted me what I am, few took me as a competitor and few intimidate me. All these people helped in molding me into a stronger person with a positive attitude. No matter where I will go I am going to miss the whole beautiful journey filled with jubilation and a tad crestfallen. This snack has definitely added life to my college days.

Last touch in China

In this post I want to share the Foods which we tried in our last trip in China. Whenever I travel I put my special interest in trying local cuisines especially those foods which are sold on streets. I try street foods for a number of reasons, One is that they are reasonably priced and delicious than the foods which are sold in restaurants and other is to experience ethnic cuisines and also for nostalgia.

Xi’an foods:

I personally liked Xi’an foods especially our first dinner in Xi’an was unforgettable. I have no words to explain my feelings on that meal. Every day in this city was a treat to our to tongues. I will never forget those foods which we tried in this beautiful historical city. You should also check this post where I’ve posted about the foods which we explored in muslim quarter near Bell tower and Drum tower

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Foods which we tried in Sichuan :

This combines the cuisines from Chengdu,Emei shan, Leshan and chongqing.

Sichuan food has a great history that it has been originated in the Qing dynasty(1644-1911) books had systematically recorderd a total of 38 cooking methods like scald,wrap,bake,mix,stew and adhere,etc. it features pugent seasoning which were famed as 3 peppers (chinese prickly ash,pepper and hot pepper)3 aroma (shallot ginger and garlic). 7 tastes(sweet,sour,tingling,spicy bitter piquant, and salty)and  8 flavors(fish flavored sour with spice pepper-tingling odd flavor tingling with spice,red spicy oily,ginger sauce and home cooking..I got this info from my 1st year Introduction to china book.

I went to Sichuan with anxiety to try all the foods there. Because all the famous foods which represent China are from this Province. But I was kind of disappointed because I failed to try those foods which I planned to try.

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Story behind the origin of Pineapple Rice:

There was once an elderly couple living in the city of Xishuangbann in the Yunnan Province. They tended the land for the feudal lord by gardening on a small island. One summer there came a severe storm that flooded the island. Even though the island had many fruits and vegetables, they were running out, and only had a small amount of rice as well. To stretch the rice, they decided to mix it with bananas, and mangoes. This didn’t taste very good, nor did they like the texture, so they decided to try pineapple. At first they chopped up the pineapple and mixed it with the rice.The pineapple tasted good, they had it several times. One day the old man carved out a pineapple first, and then filled it with rice. This was a perfect combination, so they continued with this preparation even after the floods subsided. These people called the Dai people were a hidden Chinese minority all the way up until the late 19th century. Today this has become a popular dish throughout China with only a few improvements.Pineapple Rice in Chengdu, Sichuan (1) Pineapple Rice in Chengdu, Sichuan (3)

 Tips from my Trip :

1.Gong baoji ding-in chinese it is called gong bao ji ding; This is a tender chicken dish,tender as the meat is quickly fried flavored with peanuts,this is tasty and very popular.
2.Don’t forget to try foods in muslim quarter near the Bell tower and Drum tower especially Fomi zhongzi (sweet rice dumplings)
3. Yangrou paomo is one of the most delicious meal you should try it for sure.
4.Fried rice with pickled Chinese cabbage and little capsicum is extremely savoury.

Crocodile Barbeque

Have you ever imagined eating Crocodiles? If your answer is ‘No’ then you should probably check this out.
Crocodiles are barbecued at a food festival held in Nanning, in the Guangxi Province.The meat is really tough, sinewy and hard to chew it seems.

image (4)image (1)

Sellers claimed they were nutritious, and sold them at 50 yuan (500 Rs) per piece.
Source:Englishsina.com

Northeastern Teppanyaki Restaurant

Teena’s birthday party at jixin green Teppayanki (Teppan=iron plate,yanki=fried pan) Restaurant(吉鑫绿色铁板烧) a typical Northeastern restaurant specialised in Japanese,Western,Taiwan cuisines. .
Changchun’s one of the rarest Teppayanki Restaurant and one of the modern Teppanyaki grills I have seen.
Among the dishes We’ve ordered, the best were Black Pepper Sirloin steak,Mexican Chicken wings,Bacon grills,garlic steamed Scallops. Ostrich meat was quite different, seems like no one enjoyed Ostrich meat except for me.
We enjoyed watching the skilled maneuvers of the chef’s while cooking the cuisine

dazzling show by the chef

Dazzling show by the Chef


IMG_5755
Stuffed Mexican Chicken wings

stuffed Mexican chicken wings

 good friends