The 8th of the twelfth lunar month––or this year, January 21–– is known as the Laba Festival, Labajie. While we last year covered the rich bean porridge that often masquerades the breakfast table, a lesser known but highly superstitious delicacy includes jade garlics, aka Laba garlics. Laba Festival precedes Chinese New Year because the temperature best suits the soaking of these white pearly garlics and their transformation into jade-colored jewels.
The History of Laba Garlics: Polite Reminders to Pay Up
Laba Festival coincides around the time most businesses “close their books,” or in other words collect any outstanding balances for the year. Overtly courteous, Chinese avoided demanding payment directly but rather devised a friendlier reminder: a jar of jade-colored garlic. “Garlic” and “counting” are homonyms in Chinese, both pronounced as suan. So when a businessman receives a jar of jade garlics at the year end, the gift certainly acts as a great wine pairing but also a gentle reminder – it’s time to pay up the IOU.
Composed of everyday pantry staples and extremely low-maintenance, these gorgeous jade color garlics beg ANYONE to make them, as long as they can be kept at cold temperature. If you live in tropical areas, don’t fret, just keep them in the fridge. For those in their winter months, leave your jar of marinated garlics by a cold windowsill so the light during the day and cold temperature at night will help them turn jade in less than 2 weeks.
- Garlic cloves; the amount is to your liking, but make sure you have enough to fill 2/3 of your jar
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- Rice vinegar (we used Zhenjiang vinegar)
- Clean your jar, ensuring that there is no grease.
- Peel your garlic into individual cloves. Wearing rubber gloves will ease the peeling process.
3. Fill 2/3 of the jar with peeled garlic.
4. Add 2 TBS of sugar into the jar.
5. Pour rice vinegar until it covers the garlic. There’s no need to stir, as the sugar will dissolve.
6. Close the cover tight. Place the jar by the cold window sill if you live in a place with winter weather. If not, just place the jar in the fridge. Those pearly white garlic should transform themselves into jade color by the fourth-fifth day.
To finally answer the question that’s been disgruntling your minds throughout this entire recipe, what are the practical uses of laba garlics? Not only are the vinegar-soaked garlic concomitant condiments to a meaty dish, but the garlic-infused vinegar invites dumpling-dipping as well as vegetable-dressing.