Laba porridge, also known as Buddha porridge, is a porridge made of a variety of ingredients. It is the main custom of the Laba Festival and originates from Buddhism. Buddha Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. In order to remember his sufferings, ancient Indians ate porridge on this day as a memorial. After Buddhism was introduced to China, monasteries have made porridge with grains and fruits to offer to their followers. As time went by, the tradition spreads widely around the country. In north China, it has become a custom to eat Laba porridge as a way to celebrate the Laba Festival.
The earliest Laba porridge was made of red beans, then it has evolved and gradually become more varied with regional characteristics. The ingredients for the porridge vary from region to region, but basically they include grains such as rice, millet, glutinous rice, sorghum rice, purple rice, barley, beans such as soybeans, red beans, mung beans, kidney beans, cowpeas, and dried fruits such as red dates, peanuts, lotus seeds, wolfberries, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, raisins, and white fruits.
The Laba porridge in Beijing is said to be the most elaborate. There are numerous ingredients mixed in the white rice, such as red dates, lotus seeds, walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, pine nuts, cinnamon, grapes, white fruits, roses, red beans, peanuts etc. People start washing the rice, soaking the fruit, plucking the skin and removing the core at the night before the festival. At midnight, they begin to simmer the porridge over a low heat until early the next morning.