Sunday, April 24, 2011

MotherWort Herb With Chicken, Sarawak-Style Confinement Food

I've written about kachama or kachangma before. Even included a recipe with photos back in 2008.

Kachama chicken is best eaten with dark soya sauce

However, back then, I never knew what kachama was called in English. I tried looking high and low and could never find the name. If only I knew, I could google for it. Heck, I only know how it looks like dried and chopped up!

Finally one day I chanced upon a herb called Motherwort which was listed as an ingredient in one of my client's products. She confirmed that yes, this herb is quite popular in Sarawak. I don't remember how I counter-checked but in the end, I realized kachama is Motherwort. In Mandarin, it is called Yi Mu Cao.

Now this herb is, like its name suggests, benefits the mother!

Well, in Sarawak, kachama cooked with chicken is traditionally served as a confinement food to help moms get rid of 'wind' or "angin". This is evident from the plethora of "angin"-busting ingredients in the dish - ginger, sesame oil, rice wine and of course, motherwort herb. It also helps with milk flow so perhaps that is another reason why it's recommended as confinement food.

For Chinese moms, getting rid of wind after giving birth is a MUST. I don't have kids yet so I cannot vouch about the effects of wind. Apparently if you don't get rid of angin after giving birth, you will get all sorts of ailments when you get older such as rheumatism, achy joints and stuff like that.

Accordingly, "Motherwort has a long history of use as an herb in traditional medicine in Central Europe, Asia and North America. Like many other plants, it has been used for a variety of ills, and consumed. Midwives use it for a variety of purposes, including uterine tonic and prevention of uterine infection in women, hence the name Motherwort."(from this page in Wikipedia) 

Motherwort resembles a "lion's tail" - it is a mint with dull green, hairy leaves and an intensely bitter taste. The botanical name Leonurus refers to a fanciful resemblance of the leaves to a lion's tail. It is also a mood elevator and helps women with their womenly problems. So really, the name Motherwort is an apt name! 

Kachama with chicken is an acquired taste. Sarawakians or at least my husband and his family eat it dipped with some dark soya sauce. Kachama has a slightly herbally and bitter taste, somewhat like 'sawi' or mustard green.

In Kuching, you can find this dish easily in food courts and hawker centres.

Men don't have to worry about eating this dish - motherwort herb helps calms nerves, improves blood flow and prevents blood clots. So it isn't just women who benefit, men will be able to prevent heart attacks and strokes too if they eat this herb.

Besides, it is also good for headache, insomnia, and vertigo. It is sometimes used to relieve asthma, bronchitis, and other lung problems.

What is there not to like about Motherwort? If you can get Motherwort, do try out the recipe.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pomelo Rind Braised With Prawns

While in HK, my friend took us to a local food joint which was located on the first floor of a building near the wet market of Causeway Bay. I can't recall the name of the place and anyway, I read very little Chinese (though I am learning, thanks to Skritter) so even if I did see the name of the place, I'd have forgotten by now.

We had had enough of wan ton noodles and char siew rice and roast goose rice. The rice you get in HK is one mountain! Sometimes we had to share our rice. In Malaysia we don't gobble that much of rice! 

We had met SP at Times Square at Causeway Bay (in Cantonese, "thung lor wan") and we walked towards the wet market, which at 6.30pm was in full swing. Vendors were selling fruits, fish (live ones too), chicken, pork and fresh vegetables. The sky was dark but the bright yellow lights made the market come alive with festivity. The chill was still getting to me though. At 14 C, it was cold for me. Too cold. And the skies were mostly grey when we were there in end March. How I missed my Malaysian sunsets!

Anyway, our dinner place proved to be a locals' joint where lots of Hong Kongers converged for their piping hot dinners. Peeking at the tables filling up fast around us, we saw steamboat, rice with dishes, seafood and more. It was everything under one roof.

Eat where locals eat and you can't go wrong! 

The lady who served us knew we weren't locals. The moment we opened our mouths, she knew. Yet she was also kind enough not to scream at us, as impatient HK people usually do - they're notorious for talking down to tourists who can't keep up with them. Fortunately we have been lucky. No one's ever grumbled at us. 

SP told us of a queer dish made from pomelo rind. She's been working in HK and Greater China for 5 years now and she had come to this joint for the pomelo rind dish but never got to taste it.

Braised savoury pomelo rind 

The cheery lady immediately knew what dish we were talking about. She said it was a pomelo rind dish braised with prawns. At HK$18 for a plate, we felt we had to try it out. She helpfully ordered it for us from another stall. 

The dish came to our table in a jiffy. The pomelo rind was braised till soft, almost mushy and had lots of tasty gravy. Grated nutmeg was sprinkled on top. I didn't know if it was an appetizer or a main dish but it sure tasted delicious! 

When I came home, I told my aunt about this. She laughed and said that she used to despise this dish as a child. My great-grandfather's cook would prepare this dish from leftover pomelo rind (after you've eaten the pomelo fruit) and she'd hated the idea of eating fruit peel! To her, it was a poor man's food. 

It was the first time I'd eaten such an interesting dish though. 

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Back From Hong Kong

Was in Hong Kong for 10 days last month for a few reasons. Business, leisure, etc. The usual. We try to pack a few things into our travel whenever we go abroad. This time was no different.

But the best part is always the food. This is my 3rd time to HK - strangely the country grows on you. Nic and I like the weather though at times it gets to me. Like this time around, we were there late March and while it seemed like spring, to me a tropical girl, it was mighty chilly at 14 C. Yes, I know. To most of you, 14 C is not a problem. For me it was way too chilly. All my limbs were cold. I only took one shower a day (in Penang, I take showers at least 2 times a day and more if the weather's overly warm!).

Anyway, I did a great many things while in HK.

Will write more!