Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Kachama Chicken, A Confinement Dish for Sarawakians

Just got back from one week in Kuching. It was warm over there which is unusual as I always expect rain in Borneo. When it rains in Kuching, it pours.

I go back to Kuching for 1 reason - to visit my parents-in-law. So I take it as a break from work. But the thing that gets me truly antsy is that we just have dial-up internet access in his parents' home. Which is horrible. After years on broadband, getting to dial-up is torture.

I don't cook when I get to my mom-in-law's. She likes cooking and she has a particular way of cooking to accommodate my father-in-law. I tried once but my efforts were rebuffed. So the SoupQueen gets a total break from the kitchen when she's in Kuching.

Anyway, enough of gossip stuff. In the spirit of Sarawak, I am going to teach you how to cook 'kachama' or 'kachangma'. It's a wild grass or herb that's used famously in Sarawak for mothers who are in confinement / just given birth. This dish helps get rid of wind.

As with most confinement dishes (we Chinese are good at this sort of dishes because I've been told that a good confinement or rest for the new mother prevents later health problems... later as in when a woman is in her 50s or 60s), this one contains ginger to alleviate wind too.

On a personal note, I've a friend who dislikes Chinese herbs (despite being Chinese). Ever since she gave birth 2 years ago, she has been suffering chills, incontinence and weakness. I advised her to take some Chinese ginseng tonic or at least drink a nightcap of Benedictine DOM (another must drink for Chinese moms) but she steadfastly refuses to.

Instead she relies on her vitamins. Sure, vitamins are good but I believe she needs to strengthen her body with herbs such as dang gui and ginseng. But she stubbornly refuses. If I weren't a friend, I'd tell her off sharply that all her health problems now are caused by NOT having a proper confinement with the proper confinement foods.

For this kachangma dish, you will need:

1/2 cup of dried kachangma
2 chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size pieces
1-2 tablespoon of pounded young ginger (squeeze and retain ginger juice)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
cooking oil
2-3 cups water

* As with all confinement foods, ginger and sesame oil are musts.

1. In a dry pan (no oil please), dry fry the kachangma for 2 minutes over a low fire.

Scoop into a mortar and pestle and pound lightly. Set aside.

2. Heat up pan, add 1 tablespoon cooking oil and sesame oil. Slowly fry the pounded ginger.
3. Add chicken pieces.
4. Add in the pounded kachangma. Coat evenly.
5. Pour in ginger juice (which you squeezed out earlier).
6. Add water to cover chicken pieces. Cover pan and simmer until chicken is tender.
7. Dish out and serve with a dark soya sauce.

Now in this dish, no salt is used as you will be dipping the chicken into dark soya sauce (try Lee Kum Kee Dark Soya Sauce for extra bite). This dish has a bit of gravy too so don't simmer the chicken too long.

It seems to taste better if you leave it overnight in the fridge.

Kachangma is widely available in Sarawak, sold as dried and chopped in packets. They are cheap at RM2.00 per packet.

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