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.

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