Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cooking for Confinement

All four of my babies were borne by  C-section and the confinement (or pantang) periods that I went through were not as rigorous as those who gave birth in the normal way. The traditional Malay way of the pantang usually involves the tungku (massaging the abdomen with heated metal or specially shaped stone), the body massage, the bengkung (something like the corset), the salai (lying on a warmed bed-like apparatus - this is usually practised by women from certain states in Malaysia) and strict dietary requirements. I didn't practise the first four (only getting the massage after about 3 or 4 months after childbirth). And I wasn't very rigid with my diet, either.
My first two babies were born in the UK - no mother or mother-in-law to pamper or terrorise (whichever way some people see me there! The third was born in Sungai Petani, Kedah a week into Ramadhan so both mothers were quite unavailable to be of any assistance. And the last one was also like his 2 elder brothers, born 'overseas' - in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. So no help there, either. The only person who helped me through my confinements was my darling Hubby who I should say coped with them in a most satisfactory manner...alhamdulillah! He cooked and managed things wonderfully masyAllah.
Apparently Bang Long doesn't take after his dad...! Once informed of his wife's pregnancy he'd booked my flight to Adelaide... Lucky for him I'm no longer working and not tied up with anything at home (only leaving the poor hubby to fend for himself!).
Anyway, as you can see I'm not exactly well-versed with this pantang thing so I am here mostly to help with the cooking and the laundry while the daughter-in-law does the tugku-ing and the benkung-ing on her own (fortunately this is her third childbirth). However, cooking for somebody in confinement can be really challenging. I googled for recipes but of course in the end I improvised and simplified.. I found five important ingredients to be excellent for after childbirth for their health-giving properties. They are garlic, ginger, turmeric, lemon grass and black pepper. Fortunately fresh ginger, turmeric and lemon grass are easily available here in Australia although abominably expensive! Thus from then on most of my cooking would be based on these 5 ingredients.. 
Here's a recipe using white fish fillet that the daughter-in-law (and the son, too) likes so much that she could eat the same thing 3 days in a row..

White fish fillet
Lemon grass, half an onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, black pepper and sweet soy sauce
Chop or blend the first five ingredients.
Add lots of black pepper, and salt to taste.
Marinade the fish for at least 10 minutes (oh yes, I added about a teaspoon of powdered turmeric for added colour)
Cook in a little bit of oil.
After a few minutes, turn the fish over, carefully..
Add about a tablespoon of sweet soy sauce on each side of the fish.
I wanted it served dry but the DIL preferred a little bit of gravy so I added about 1/3 cup water and let simmer for 3-5 minutes..
There you are - marinated fish fillet in soy sauce!
From a (ehem..modern and contemporary) mother/mother-in-law point of view, you can't be too strict with the pantang.. Eat whatever your body feels right for you and your baby. Well, yes there are some food to avoid that are considered 'cold' and can cause 'wind' (berangin?). If there are food that makes you feel uncomfortable after eating it, then just avoid it... What's important is to eat a balanced diet and consume enough liquid to remain hydrated and for essential milk production. And remember, eating a healthy diet is like a way of life and to remain healthy one needs to eat healthily for the rest of ones life! Thank you.

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