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Snails that are as fat as geese

By Cang Wei and Song Wenwei in Nanjing  (China Daily)

15:42, April 04, 2013

Workers make qingtuan, or green rice balls, at a pastry shop in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. Qingtuan are a traditional Qingming snack for people living south of the Yangtze River. Wang Jiankang / for China Daily

In China ancestral worship used to be practiced during the Hanshi Festival, or cold food festival, which merged with the Qingming Festival about 300 years ago.

Today people can enjoy many kinds of traditional cold delicacies at this time of year.


or sweet green rice balls, is a favorite of people living south of the Yangtze River. People mix rice flour with wormwood juice, or the juice of other kinds of green plants, which they then use to make rice balls that are filled with sweet red bean paste and a small piece of lard.

After the rice balls are steamed, they are brushed with vegetable oil to give them a shiny surface. With their adorable color, refreshing fragrance and sweet flavor, green rice balls have been a must-have offering at ancestral rituals in the Yangtze River Delta for more than 2,000 years.

The festival is also the time to enjoy luosi, or river snails, as the meat inside the spiral shells of luosi is believed to be at its most succulent at this time of year. As an old saying goes, "a snail during Qingming is as fat as a goose".

As the meat itself is a bit bland, the snails are cooked in a variety of ways to add some flavor. One common way is to fry the snails inside their shells with shallots, ginger, pepper, soy sauce, wine and white sugar. Sometime the meat is picked out of the shell with a toothpick and cooked with different ingredients.

In some rural areas, having eaten the meat, people throw the empty shells on top of the roof, as the sound is said to scare away mice.

Gruel with peach blossoms is another Qingming specialty. This looks very nice and it is believed to have medicinal value. Four grams of fresh peach blossoms, or two grams of dry ones, and 100 grams of rice are needed to make the gruel. The blossoms are added after the rice has come to the boil, and then it is left to cook until the rice has broken down. It is said that the gruel is good for reducing phlegm, and it can ameliorate constipation.

In some areas of South China, especially in the eastern part of Guangdong province, people eat pancakes during the Qingming Festival.

The pancakes are traditionally eaten with two fillings. People first mix wheat flour with water to make pancakes that are as thin as paper. Then eggs, meat, mushrooms and other vegetables are combined to make a savory paste, and white sugar and malt sugar are used to make a sweet paste. People spread the pastes in the pancakes and then roll them up.

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