Kacang Ma (Motherwort) Chicken and confinement

Confinement practices are traditional postnatal practices aimed at helping a new mum recover from the rigours of pregnancy, labour and child birth.  Mum and baby are said to be in confinement because they are effectively “quarantined” at home.

Chinese confinement restrictions include avoiding “cool element” such as cold water or low temperatures from air conditioners hence showering in warm water or bath soaked with herbs is only permitted.  These prohibitions are said to help ensure that the body retain as much heat as possible. It is believed this will help avoid health problems such as rheumatism, arthritis, headaches and body pains later in life.

Besides being confined in her bedroom, the new mum is also restricted to a special diet of dishes that will “warm” the body. These include ginger and a traditional tonic brewed with herbs. They are believed to promote better blood circulation and strengthen the joints.

For a Malaysian-Chinese mum, the confinement period lasts for a whole month from baby’s birth.  During this period, the signature dish for the new mum is kacang ma (motherwort chicken).  It is chicken cooked with wine, ginger and dried herbs.

This dish is exclusive only to Sarawak (not the whole of Malaysia or Singapore).  Due to its popularity, ‘kacang ma’ is now available in some restaurants and homes as a dinner dish or that much loved dish for parties.

Having a quiet Sunday (yesterday), here’s my step-by- step pictures ‘Cooking Kacang Ma’.  As you can see, I used Chinese wine to simmer the pieces and then red wine added for that special ‘kick’.  The herbs were imported from Kuching as I have no idea how to make them from scratch.

cooking kacangma

Related great reads & credits below
Confinement in Malaysia by Baby Centre
Kacang Ma by food blogger Qui Shu Shu

Introducing Kacang Ma to Our Growing Edge.


4 thoughts on “Kacang Ma (Motherwort) Chicken and confinement

  1. Very interesting! I’ve never heard of such a practice here but I remember my grandma saying that pregnant women and those who just gave birth should avoid hard (red) meat to avoid post partum issues. 🙂

    • Confinement after childbirth for new mothers is a tradition practiced by all in Malaysia and Singapore (or perhaps some other Asian countries too). It was very strict in previous days but today the practice has diluted. During this period the mother is supposed to rest as most will employ one or two confinement ladies to help look after baby, cook meals for the mother and do the laundry. For migrants this is not affordable but often we have the mother of the new Mum flying in to help. 🙂

  2. Great post! My family is from Hong Kong and I’ve heard of confinement being practiced too. I don’t have any children, but there’s one dish that sits on the edge of my adventurous palate. Black vinegar and ginger pigs feet. Do you know this dish? Part of me thinks that it’s delicious but when I think too much about the fact that’s an actual pigs foot (and makes no attempt at disguise), I start to dislike it.

    • I don’t like pork and worst the trotters. I didn’t know that pig feet or trotters is a ‘confinement’ dish. The recipe you mentioned sounded somewhat similar to Chinese authentic recipe for pork legs cooked in dried mushroom and soya sauce. It’s a favourite for many people. I do quite like that even when I am not much of a pork eater. I like the huge leg (not feet, no worries) dish and you can find this at Szechuan Restaurant in Newmarket.

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