A strange sounding name, but believe you me, it is one dish you would either loathe or love. Being a Sarawakian, I can only concur.
Here’s my version of the ‘mysterious’ Ka Chang Ma, which became an instant hit with my Belgian hubby and Belsian boys 😀
It could pass for a dish for Shrek or the Incredible Hulk, with its murky green colour. LOL!
Ridiculously repugnant looking but, trust me, it’s more than edible. It’s delightfully unique, exclusive and extraordinary. Where else can you get this dish, but only in Sarawak (correct me if I’m wrong). What’s required is an acquired taste, that’s all.
The Florence Nightingale of all herbs and in search of Ka Chang Ma…
Have you ever wondered why there’s a “Ma” in Ka Chang Ma? This has not been discussed before. I have searched the net and mapped the “Ma” to “Mother” as in Motherwort which is the English translation. Motherwort is an herbaceous plant of the mint family; however, some herbalists claimed the plant comes from the lavender family. I’m not an expert in this field but nevertheless, admire the hard work these experts have done to document their works. Most herbalists claimed that Motherwort is not an aromatic herb, but a bitter tasting mint. Could this be the main reason for the displeasing taste to the most refined palate? “Ka Chang” and not “Kacang” for heaven’s sake! Kacang is the Malay or Indonesian word for nut and there are absolutely no nuts in this herb or recipe.
As far as I know this is a Chinese recipe from either the Hakka origin (notable for their use of bitter herbs and vegetables) or the Teochew origin (notable for their variety of braised dishes and the use of cooking wine). I stand open for discussion here, by the way 😀
By splitting the words “Ka Chang”, which is probably Hokkien, then Ka means ‘grate’ or ‘mince’ and Chang means ‘ stalk’ or ‘root’ or ‘bark of a tree’. By collocating the words, Ka Chang Ma, this literally means in English “grated bark/stalk/root (of a) mother”. This definition befits Motherwort to a tee. Wort is the Germanic word ‘Wurzel” in German or “wortel” in Dutch, which means root. Wort is also an Old English word, meaning “to heal”. There you go!
As any mother in the world would do, she cares for the well-being of her child. There’s no wonder why I read with awe the multitude of motherly goodness this miracle herb could do.
“ Motherwort is used for heart symptoms…heart failure…irregular heartbeat…anxiety…menstrual periods…over-active thyroid…flatulence…improve eyesight…shingles…itching…stimulates uterine tone and blood flow…herb of longevity…helps tears flow…ensure deeper sleep…a favourite ally of menopausal women…relieves pains…..”
The list is endless. I called this, the Florence Nightingale of all herbs!
I bet after reading this, everyone will be stockpiling this miracle herb 😉
By the way, the scientific name of Motherwort is Leonurus_cardiaca – literally translated from Greek to English: Lion tail heart. According to Susun Weed on her article about Motherwort, the plant was thought to resemble the tail of a lion, while Motherwort is primarily an herb of the heart.
Dish in Confinement – a Midwife’s favourite
Ka Chang Ma is THE dish to consume by Sarawakian (usually Chinese origin) women in confinement – after childbirth and during her recovery, usually for a period of one month.
I remembered associating this dish to – dark room – newborn baby – a woman in sarong – the smell of baby powder and milk. My eldest sister went through this phase and was confined for one month, stuffed with this glorious smelling Ka Chang Ma, prepared by none other than Mummy dearest 😉
My brother-in-law could only gawk (sorry for the choice of word, Ah Hia) at the plate of Ka Chang Ma. “How can you eat this thing for 30 days?”
My BIL is West Malaysian, and Ka Chang Ma was simply non-existent or unheard of there in the late 80’s. I am sure with cross-border thinking and interracial marriages over the recent years and decades between the East and West, the world has become smaller. I would probably see Ka Chang Ma served at a food court in Batu Pahat, as much as Otak-otak is served at hawker stalls in Kuching.
By the way, I have never seen fresh Motherwort plant in my life. I googled for this plant and amazingly, herbalists documented that they are found worldwide. Erm…now, I’m curious to get hold of the fresh ones and start planting them in my garden 😀
The ones we get in Sarawak are sold dried; the way tea leaves are processed and oxidized.
There are various ways of preparing Ka Chang Ma, where chicken meat is the main protein ingredient in the dish. The Ka Chang Ma recipe in this post is exclusively taken from my Mum’s kitchen by memory. There are no measurements in this recipe but prepared with lots of love and joy accompanied by the 5 senses – sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch
You will need the following –
Chicken meat (I used Chicken legs, washed and removed the skin and cut the legs into thighs and drumsticks) Note: By all means, use chicken filet or chicken breasts, but I prefer chicken legs as they are tastier and more succulent.
Ka Chang Ma (Motherwort herb) – ground and dry roast
Ginger – quite a lot (blend and separate the juice from the pulp)
Sesame Oil (Forget any other type of cooking oil)
Cooking Wine (Ang chiu, arak or tuak) – I used Jim Beam Bourbon Whisk(e)y 😀
Salt – optional (I used chicken stock cube to taste) Note: The correct recipe for Ka Chang Ma omits any form of flavour enhancer.
Some water (for braising)
That’s all for the ingredients.
- Dry roast the ginger pulp in sesame oil until fragrant and golden brown. Blend and set aside.
- Sauté the chicken thighs and drumsticks in some sesame oil until the juice from the chicken is released.
- Add in the ginger juice, half the ground roasted pulp of the ginger, the dry roasted ground Ka Chang Ma (Motherwort) herb, Whisk(e)y and some water. Add chicken stock or salt, if used.
- Cover and braise the chicken mixture over low to medium heat until the chicken is cooked.
- Before dishing up the braised chicken in Ka Chang Ma herb, add the rest of the sesame oil-roasted ginger pulp and more Whisk(e)y 😀
- That’s it really!
Tip of the Iceberg?
Apparently, to my boys, yes! I made chicken cracklings or chicken skin scratchings to go with my Ka Chang Ma. The crispy cracklings were to die for and they’re what attracted my Belsian boys to this dish! LOL!
By the way, I am submitting this post to the Little Thumbs up event for the month of July with the chosen ingredient “GINGER” hosted by Alvin from Chef and Sommelier, organised by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids
Take care and Gingerly yours,
Related readings on Ka Chang Ma –
Related posts on Ginger –