Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

2023 Spring Festival: Ethnic minority groups in Yunnan prepare food to celebrate Lunar New Year

With the Chinese New Year just around the corner, people across the country are busy preparing special dishes and snacks. Our reporter Yang Jinghao takes a look at some of the specialties enjoyed by ethnic minority groups during the festival in southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

When it comes to the Spring Festival, people of Dai ethnicity can’t be without Baba, a special kind of cake made of glutinous rice.

This family in the city of Mangshi has kept the tradition for decades.

FENGMIE HANWANG Resident of Dai Ethnicity, Mangshi City “During the Chinese New Year, we Dai people will all eat Baba. We are now using purple glutinous rice as the ingredient. It’s very delicious.”

The process isn’t too complicated, but it requires special attention to ensure a good shape and texture.

YANG JINGHAO Mangshi, Yunnan Province “This pastry is usually served with a special kind of dip made of brown sugar and perilla seed – which has a minty flavor. It tastes great – sticky and sweet.”

And the finished Baba are wrapped in banana leaves.

FENGMIE HANWANG Resident of Dai Ethnicity, Mangshi City “This will make the Baba tastier. And it’s environmentally friendly.”

In addition to snacks, special drinks are an essential part of the joyous occasion. We visited another village inhabited by De’ang people, who take great pride in their centuries-old “sour tea”. It takes at least half a year before the unique drink is ready.

Steamed tea leaves are first fermented underground for several months. Then they are mashed into a paste before being kneaded into cakes and dried in the sun.

ZHAO LATUI Resident of De’ang Ethnicity, Mangshi City “When they are half dried, we’ll cut them into small pieces to make them easier to soak, for drinking.”

Zhao invited me to taste the tea he made earlier in the year. He said the name sour tea doesn’t mean it tastes sour, but it’s rich in lactic acid bacteria following fermentation.

ZHAO LATUI Resident of De’ang Ethnicity, Mangshi City “On New Year’s day, married daughters will visit their parents, carrying sour tea, clothes and other snacks they made as gifts, and the whole family will chat while drinking tea around the fireplace.”

In November, the sour tea-making technique was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Zhao says he hopes the tradition will be preserved and passed down to younger generations.

YJG, CGTN, Mangshi City, Yunnan Province.


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