Asian · Feel-Good · Informative · Little Thumbs Up! · Main Course · Nostalgia · Poultry · Sarawakian · Savoury

Ka Chang Ma (The Mother of all Dishes)

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 😀

1. KCM_Ka Chang Ma

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 notKacang” 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. 

2. KCM_dried Ka Chang Ma

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.

3. KCM_Chix_washed, skinned

Ka Chang Ma (Motherwort herb) – ground and dry roast

4a. KCM_Ground Motherwort, airtight jar4b. KCM_dried Motherwort_dry roasted

Ginger – quite a lot (blend and separate the juice from the pulp)

5a. KCM_Ginger, whole5b. KCM_Ginger, blended

5c. KCM_Ginger juice5d. KCM_Ginger 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 😀

6. KCM_Sesame Oil and Jim Beam Whiskey

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.


  1. Dry roast the ginger pulp in sesame oil until fragrant and golden brown. Blend and set aside.
  2. Sauté the chicken thighs and drumsticks in some sesame oil until the juice from the chicken is released.
  3. 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.
  4. Cover and braise the chicken mixture over low to medium heat until the chicken is cooked.
  5. 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 😀
  6. That’s it really!

7a. KCM_Braised chicken in Ka Chang Ma herb, ginger pulp, ginger juice, whisky and water

7b. KCM_platting up Ka Chang Ma

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!

Wash the chicken skins and pat dry with absorbent paper and then marinate the chicken skins with torn/ chopped fresh coriander, ginger juice, curry powder and chicken stock cube and pepper to taste. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Wash the chicken skins and pat dry with absorbent paper and then marinate the chicken skins with torn/ chopped fresh coriander, ginger juice, curry powder and chicken stock cube and pepper to taste. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Shallow fry (without oil) …..
Shallow fry (without oil) …..
…. until crispy and golden brown
…. until crispy and golden brown
Voilà! My version of the crispy chicken cracklings.  YUMMY!
Voilà! My version of the crispy chicken cracklings. YUMMY!
 Braised Chicken in Motherwort herb (Ka Chang Ma) served with steamed white rice, some cooling salad on the side and not forgetting the crispy chicken cracklings, which – in my boys’ opinion – were the tip of the iceberg :-D
Braised Chicken in Motherwort herb (Ka Chang Ma) served with steamed white rice, some cooling salad on the side and not forgetting the crispy chicken cracklings, which – in my boys’ opinion – were the tip of the iceberg 😀
The Mother of all dishes!  Sinfully scrumptious and healthy ;-)
The Mother of all dishes! Sinfully scrumptious and healthy 😉
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 –

Food Makes My World Just That Bit Rounder: Chicken Ka Chang Ma

Food@Home Sweet Home: Sarawak Kachangma Chicken- Confinement Dish

My Jersey Life: Ka Chang Ma

Josephians of the seventies: In search of Ka Chang Ma

Related posts on Ginger –

Slow Cooked Chicken Shiitake Mushroom and Ginger Soup

14 thoughts on “Ka Chang Ma (The Mother of all Dishes)

  1. Wow Wow Wow! I’m truly wowed by the information detailed in this post and the way you cooked this wonderful dish. But but but I still have no idea what this Ka Chang Ma is… I have never seen this here in Singapore!

    Can it be subsitituted with other herbs?

  2. Chicken cracklings! Your Ka Chang Ma must be super-powerful with all these intriguing texture and flavours.

  3. Hey bro, when you come over to BE, I’ll cook Ka Chang Ma for you. How’s that?? When in KCH, I’ll leave it to the expert – Mum, of course 😀

  4. Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! 😀

    You should visit Kuching (or any bigger towns in Sarawak) one day and buy these herbs in bulk back to Singapore. They’re light-weight (like tea leaves).. but can be passed for …some ppl say “cannabis” ? LOL! KCM is a much-loved herb/ dish in Sarawak, but not any more exclusively used by women in confinement, but prepared any time of the day 🙂

    I’m sure once you’ve tried this dish, you will be challenged to get the right wine to go with this dish. I look forward to that day, Alvin;-)

    Re your last q, I’m afraid not. Ka Chang Ma is THE herb that’s called Motherwort and it’s the only way to prepare, but I guess you may use other herbs, but cannot call the dish Ka Chang Ma anymore…

  5. Hi Zoe,

    Chicken crackings!! Yeah!! Let’s say there was an explosion of flavours and textures 😀
    Shall we THUMB UP for that?

  6. Hi Shirley

    Thanks for dropping by. This is a very common dish served at home (and now restos) in Sarawak. It is a lovely dish, but I must warn, that for first timers, it would be an acquired taste 😀

    Happy days ahead!

  7. Hi Nasifriet,
    I love this dish. We cook KCM every and then at home.
    When I was in my sil place ( Ireland) we use Stone’s ginger wine to cook this. It is very close to our Sarawak taste. Normally in my place (Miri) we use homemade glutinous rice to cook KCM.
    Love your chicken crackling!! It’s like the pork fat crackling ..hehe Looks so additive!
    Thanks for sharing this to LTU!

  8. Stone’s ginger wine sounds wonderful. I will try to search for this wine at a British store near my place. I’ve used Whiskey, Cognac, Chinese cooking wine for my KCM dish. It’s good but not 100% authentic, if you know what I mean😊.

    Oh… Homemade glutinous rice in KCM? Sounds intriguing…. I’m curious. You should share this on your blog ..

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