八宝粥, literally to mean “Eight Treasures Porridge” is a traditional congee concoction enjoyed on 腊月初八 the 8th day of the 12th month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, hence giving rise to its other name, 腊八粥. Having it roots in Buddhism, the history of this dish can be traced back more than 2200 years back to the Han dynasty when it was generally used as part of prayer offerings and not consumed. Interestingly during the Song dynasty more than 800 years ago , the folks then began enjoying this porridge for themselves, causing it to evolve and change to reflect the culinary characteristics of each period in history, as well as in accordance to personal taste and liking.
Yes its the time of the year again…a time for reflections, a time for revelations and a time for new resolutions. As the end of the year draws near, one can’t help but look back at what has happened over the last 12 months. This is the time of year when people relax, unwind, preparing for the holidays and festivities to come. However, this is also the time of the year when the rains visit us again, the skies are grey half the time and sometimes, our moods follow as well.One of life’s many ironies.
Today we celebrate the winter solstice, 冬至. This is an important day on the Chinese lunar calendar as it marks the coming of winter proper. This is when families prepare themselves for the harsh cold to come. However, Singapore knows no seasons. But my family, being rather traditional, celebrates the day with offerings to the gods, most symbolically in the form of tang yuan, 汤圆 glutinous rice dumplings. When we were young, preparation started early in the morning, as my mother would knead the dough from scratch as my sister and I pinched off pieces from it, rolling them into balls, getting ready to dunk them into a hot pot of boiling water. Another pot looked on, exuding a sweet jaggery and gingery aroma from the broth that was bubbling along. Being Hokkiens, we enjoy tang yuan in hot ginger broth sweetened with raw brown sugar. My mother accentuates that we daun pandan. I remember being told by my grandmother when I was young that we had to eat the number of tang yuans (kueh ee she called it) in accordance to our age! Her little “ploy” to make us children eat more I guess!