An Uniquely Sarawakian Confinement Dish–Motherwort Chicken or Kacangma (益母草姜酒鸡)




As a Sarawakian food blogger, I will not do justice to Sarawak if I do not blog this rather uniquely Sarawak cuisine., Kacangma or motherwort chicken. This is a famous Chinese Hakka confinement food, meaning food specially cooked for a lady after delivery of a baby.  Chinese believed that ladies’ body is weak after delivering a baby, therefore, there is a need to replenish the body’s nutrition. The food that these ladies have will have different ways of cooking in terms of cooking methods of ingredients.


Sarawak Hakka has long prepared this dish for the confinement ladies. However, it is not popular in West Malaysia and Singapore at all. It is rather unsure the reasons of its lack of popularity in other regions in this part of the world.. But, surprisingly, the Hakka in certain part of People’s Republic of China is preparing this also. Though it is a confinement dish, in Sarawak, it is so popular that it has become a party food. It is well accepted by all age group or sexuality. Man like me, do at times craved for this special cuisine… Ha-ha


However, to cook this dish overseas is not quite possible because there is a need to get hold a special herb called motherwort. This herb had been used by British Midwife to assist in delivery. The herbs, however, are not commonly sold in other parts of the world unless one will have to plant it in its own house. But be careful, the leaves looked like marijuana and you may have a hard time of explaining to the relevant authorities of planting this special plant…


Before my mother in law visited me last week, I have specially requested her to bring me a package of dried motherwort specially to cook this dish and satisfied my cravings in Singapore…There are many ways of cooking, what is illustrated here is how my mother in law prepared the dish.. She had been cooking this for her daughters, friends and family members. Her method is still rather traditional as she do not like the leaves to be blended and prefer to pan fry the leaves rather than oven toasting as I have suggested. This recipe is for confinement ladies, hence no seasoning and water were used in the cooking, only Chinese cooking wine .. Therefore, it is very spicy hot and have a high alcohol content.. After consuming it, it is likely that one will sweat in this hot weather. That is the purpose of cooking in this manner catering for confinement chase away the “wind” in the body and to provide heat to the weak body. However, for normal consumption, one can add seasonings such as salt or sugar and replace part of the wine used with water…


As this is a herb, i believed we should have a good understanding of what is the herb before we consumed it. As per Wikipedia:

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is a herbaceous perennial plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Other common names include Throw-wort, Lion’s Ear, and Lion’s Tail. Lion’s Tail also being a common name for Leonotis leonurus, and Lion’s Ear, a common name for Leonotis nepetifolia. Originally from Central Asia and southeastern Europe, it is now found worldwide, spread largely due to its use as a herbal remedy.  Motherwort has a long history of use as a herb in traditional medicine in Central Europe, Asia and North America. Like many other plants, it has been used for a variety of ills. Midwives use it for a variety of purposes, including uterine tonic and prevention of uterine infection in women, hence the name Motherwort. The herb contains the alkaloid leonurine, which is a mild vasodilator and has a relaxing effect on smooth muscles. For this reason, it has long been used as a cardiac tonic, nervine, and an emmenagogue. Among other biochemical constituents, it also contains bitter iridous glycosides, diterpinoids, flavonoids (including rutin and quercetin), tannins, volatile oils, and vitamin A. (

Since this is a Chinese herbs, for the benefit of Chinese readers, i have quoted this from the Chinese  information website. As per Baidu Baike

益母草,又名:蓷、茺蔚、坤草,拉丁学名:Leonurus artemisia (Laur.)S. Y. Hu F,为唇形科益母草属植物益母草的全草,夏季开花。其干燥地上部分为常用中药,中国大部分地区均产,生用或熬膏用。一年或二年生草本全国大部分地区均有分布,生于山野荒地田埂、草地等。在夏季生长茂盛花未全开时采摘, 味辛苦、凉,活血、祛淤、调经、消水,治疗妇女月经不调,胎漏难产,胞衣不下,产后血晕,瘀血腹痛,崩中漏下,尿血、泻血,痈肿疮疡





  • 1 medium sized chicken, cut into smaller sizes.
  • 1/2 cup of dry motherwort herb
  • 2 cups of Chinese cooking wine
  • 200 grams of fresh ginger, pounded and extract juice
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil.




  • Pound the ginger and squeeze the ginger juice into the chicken. Marinate the chicken for at least one to two hours. Keep the pounded ginger for later use.


  • In a pan, use the smallest heat to stir fry the motherwort. Depending on your heat, it should take from 15-20 minutes until the leaves are very dry, easily broken and aroma starts to penetrate the house. In addition, the leaves should become very fine until that it stick to the sides of the pan. Be patience, too high heat will burn the leaves very easily and the end result is bitter taste motherwort. Therefore, patience is required. Once ready, set aside.


  • In the same pan, stir fry the minced ginger with medium heat, stir fry until it is dry and aromatic. The main purpose of this step is the same as in the above step, to make the ginger dry and aromatic. Once ready, set aside.


  • Put 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in the pan, place the chicken in the pan, stir fry under medium heat and well combined. Place the lid and simmer the chicken until it is cooked and soft. Note that there is no water used in the pan frying. As you cook the chicken, meat juices will be secreted out and the juices simmer the chicken.


  • Once it almost dries up, add in ginger and motherwort, followed by the Chinese cooking wine, let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes. If the wine dries up too fast, as more wine to get the gravy.

  • From the above procedure, you may note that there is no seasoning such as salt or water being used. That is for the confinement ladies where salt is a not supposed to be added to confinement food. For normal home consumption, you can add salt and sugar to taste and replace some of the wine with plain water.  Best serve hot with a bowl of hot rice.



Frankly speaking, I am issuing as this post in honour of this unique Sarawak cuisines. However, if you can’t get hold of the motherwort, which I presumed most readers will not be able to, just omit the motherwort and you can come out with a delicious ginger chicken wine …. However, I seriously believed that it is not a bad an idea to understand this beneficial herb consumed by confinement ladies in Sarawak , and such benefits are supported by many scientific studies..… As to why it is not popular in other parts of the region, the question remain unanswered. Hope you like the post today. Cheers..


  • For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 15 October 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts.  



11 thoughts on “An Uniquely Sarawakian Confinement Dish–Motherwort Chicken or Kacangma (益母草姜酒鸡)

  1. Pingback: RECIPE INDEX ( Updated on 10 March 2014) | GUAI SHU SHU

  2. Your kachama well cooked with clear soup. Nothing worse than eating kachanma with murky soup and the leaves pounded to fine paste/like tea dust. Hakka cook the best kachanma – steamed just after a quick saute.

  3. Hi! I came across this post when I was googling for kacang ma recipe. Very very helpful for me as I am going thru my 37 weeks now and need to learn to do this or at least teach someone I love to do this for me. 🙂 Thanks a bunch!! Oh nice blog by the way.

  4. I go to Kuching often n found kacangma paste in the supermkt. Asked around n found many versions of kacangma chicken.
    this trip i manage to buy the kacangma in a chinese health shop. Owner also taught me how to cook the dish.
    Then i goggle n found out even more.
    Going to cook this for my 85 yr old mother with less wine.
    I am a vegetarian, would substitute chicken with chinese mushroom n black fungus. Use mushroom stock n siew heng wine. Let u know what this fish will turn out.

  5. Pingback: RECIPE INDEX ( Updated on 13 March 2015) | GUAI SHU SHU

  6. Pingback: Kacang Ma (Motherwort) Chicken and confinement | littlegirlstory

  7. Pingback: Special Compilation of Sarawakian Cuisines | Guai Shu Shu

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