Laba Congee Festival

December 30, 2022, is Lunar December (la) 8 (ba) in the Chinese calendar of Tiger year 2022, kown as Laba Festival.

Traditionally in China, there is only one way to observe this special day, which is to eat Laba congee – a nuts-rich rice soup, either sweet or salt.

Congee – Food for Enlightenment

Laba Festival was initially set up to commemorate the day 2,500 years ago when Shakyamuni regained physical strength after consuming a bowl of goat milk congee offered by a sheep herder girl, which enabled him to resume meditation until his final enlightenment.

On that night when witnessing a star flying across the sky, he suddenly recalled all things happened since the time-no-beginning and became aware of all occurrences in the entire universe beyond his personal experience and attained a clear vision of all prospects for the future-no-end. This ultimate liberation of his consciousness from the perceived confinement of a conditioned individual circumstance derived from his particular craving transformed him from a man to a Buddha.

Since Buddhism became part of the mainstream teachings in China, the shepherd girl’s charitable spirit has been celebrated through a congee-eating festival.

Each year on this day, Buddhist temples would place a huge pot at the front gate, cooking rice congee with Chinese characteristics – i.e. without milk but with nuts – and offer it to their followers and non-followers for free. Most Chinese families would also cook laba congee on the day which is a great food to enjoy during the chilly season.

Laba Congee – the Start of Chinese New Year

There is no record documenting when this custom began in China, but most historians believe it started during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), an era that not only made Taoism state-sponsored teaching but systematically introduced Buddhism to China.

A free Laba congee offering ritual at a Buddhist temple on lunar December 8

Regardless of when it began, in more than 1,000 years, this practice has developed into a warm-up event of a month-long Chinese New Year festival.

Congee – Food to Nourish

Congee is considered one of the best food to nourish your body and comfort the stomach.

A typical Chinese congee will be cooked with rice, sometimes adding green beans (for summer) or red beans (for all seasons), and served as breakfast with sesame pies, twisted frying sticks, and stuffed or un-stuffed buns. But congee can also be stewed with rich flavours and eaten as a side dish or snack.

Below are some congee recipes.

Congee with Mushroom and Fungus (口蘑香菇粥)



Rice porridge 1 bowl
Mushroom 50g
Fungus 50g
Chicken mince 50k
Rice wine ½ teaspoon
Soy sauce ½ teaspoon
Chicken stoke 1 cup


1, Cut mushrooms into thin slices. Soak dry fungus in water until soft, remove stems and cut into thin slices. Season minced chicken.

2, heat wok, add minced chicken and quick stir fry. Remove the chicken mince to a bowl.

3, Place rice porridge in a pot, bring to boil over high heat.

4, Add mushroom, fungus, rice wine, soy sauce, chicken stoke, season with salt if necessary. Cook covered for 15 minutes.

5, Return cooked chicken mince to the porridge, mix well. Top with minced shallots. Serve when hot.

Congee with Crabstick and Tofu (蟹柳豆腐粥)


Cooked rice 1 bowl
Crabstick 1
tofu 1
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Chicken stoke 1 cup


1, Cut crabstick into sections. Cut tofu into small squares. Chop ginger into fine pieces.

2, Heat pot, add chicken stoke, bring to boil.

3, Add ginger, cook for minutes.

4, Add rice, tofu. Salt to taste. Cook covered for 20 minutes.

5, Add crabstick, mix well. Serve.

Congee with Ginkgo and Gourd (白果冬瓜粥)


Thin watery rice porridge 1 bowl
Green gourd 150g
Ginkgo 25g
Salt 1/3 teaspoon
Chicken stoke 1 cup


1, Wash and soak ginkgo in water until tender. Transfer ginkgo to a bowl, pour hot water over and let sit for a while.

2, Peel the skin of green gourd and slice it into thick chunks. Chop ginger into tiny pieces.

3, Heat pot, add chicken stoke and ginger pieces, bring to boil.

4, Add thin porridge, season with pepper, salt to taste. Bring to boil over high heat.

5, Add green gourd chunks, mix well, cook covered for another 5 minutes. Server.

Congee with Fungus, Shrimp and Sprouts (木耳银芽海米粥)


Thin porridge 1 bowl
Egg 1
Edible tree fungus
Bean sprouts
Dry shrimps
Salt 1/4 teaspoon
Chicken stoke 1/2 cup


1, Soak black tree ear fungus in cold water until soft, rinse thoroughly. Soak dry shrimps until tender. Wash spinach and bean sprouts. Break egg in a bowl, stir nicely.

2, Heat wok, add a bit oil, pour egg and fry it into a thin sheet. Transfer the egg sheet to a chopping board and shred into thin strips.

3, Heat pot, add chicken stoke and ginger, bring to boil.

4, Add porridge, egg strips, black fungus, bean sprouts, dry shrimps and spinach, bring to boil over high heat. Serve.

Congee with Crystal Sugar (冰糖五色粥)


Thin porridge 1 bowl
Carrot 25g
Green bean 25g
Shelled corn 50g
Dry fungus 25g
Cristal sugar 100g


1, Soak dry fungus in water until soft, rinse thoroughly, and chop into fine pieces. Cut carrot into small cubic pieces.

2, Place fungus, carrot, corn and peas in a pot, pour hot water over and let sit until tender. Transfer the drained contents to a blow.

3, Add porridge to a pot, bring to boil.

4, Return fungus, carrot, corn, peas to the pot, add crystal sugar, mix well. Serve.

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