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Author’s Blurb: I’m a sceptic of healthy meals that claim to promote or speed up a person’s recovery from illnesses. But after watching the documentary “Heal” on Netflix about that subject matter, I’m a little more open to the idea.

We’ve previously written about Savor of Life, which uses vegan meal plans and life coaches for the above purpose.

But the concept of healthy food isn’t some new millennial development.

It can be traced back to centuries ago, and one of its uses was for our grandmothers and their grandmothers’ regimen after delivering a baby.

What I’m referring to is confinement food. 

During a mother’s confinement period in Chinese culture (Zuo Ye Zi), she must go through traditional postnatal practices that are designed to help her recover from pregnancy, labour and birth.

Some of these practices comprises of mothers avoiding: 

  • Contact with water like bathing or their washing hair; 
  • Exerting themselves by climbing stairs;
  • Reading books, crying, sewing, or having sex.

This period usually lasts for a month, but can go up to 100 days for greater healing. 

Now I don’t personally know the consequences of disobeying the tradition, but May is someone who takes confinement seriously.

Stir-fried capsicum with bentong ginger and shredded pork, paired with steamed grouper with lemongrass and ginger / Image Credit: Essence Kitchen

She created Essence Kitchen, a food delivery service specifically catering confinement meals with 2 purposes in mind.

They were to keep the tradition of Zuo Yue Zi alive, and make confinement meals convenient and accessible for new, busy moms.

Confinement Ladies May Not Be Reliable

May herself had a poor experience in a confinement centre after having her son. 

“At first I thought that I made the right decision by signing myself up at a confinement centre for my confinement period,” she said.

She believed it was the right choice after hearing complaints from her friends who’ve had bad experiences with their stay-in confinement ladies.

Meals are all homemade / Image Credit: Essence Kitchen

“Some didn’t even know how to take care of the baby or cook,” she said.

Their caretakers would also push them to buy products that were never used.

“The confinement centre turned out to not be what I expected, as they don’t even serve good quality food. I ended up paying around RM12,000 for over 28 days.”

Average costs of confinement centres can rack up between RM8,000 to RM15,000 for 28 days. 

Stay-in confinement ladies would cost around RM6,000 for their services, but this excludes ingredients for meals.

Bear in mind that new mums have to incur extremely high costs after delivering a child, such as hospital bills and buying necessities for a new born like baby cribs and diapers, amongst others.

Some members of the Essence Kitchen team / Image Credit: Essence Kitchen

So, May presents a more affordable option with a focus on catering nutritious confinement meals. 

Essence Kitchen’s meals are offered in different packages that include lunch and dinner:

  • Trial Package: 1 day (RM129)
  • Package B: 7 days (RM999)
  • Package A: 28 days (RM3,388)

Modern Mums Still Value Traditions

The confinement meals combine traditional and modern dietary principles, curated by their in-house Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and nutritionist team.

“Confinement period is super important for mummies who have given birth to recover and replenish their body’s needs by having nutritious meals to regain strength and vitality,” she said.

We were sceptical as to how many modern mothers who live in the city today still believe in the effectiveness of TCM, as this could very well be based on an old wives’ tale.

May disagreed, saying, “Don’t be surprised as many modern mums still believe in traditional ways of confinement.”

“Some have tried the Taiwanese style of confinement before, but said that it was too modern and might not be suitable for our local dietary needs.”

Meals come packed in glass containers and thermal flasks / Image Credit: Essence Kitchen

The service is able to cater between 23 to 32 pax per month, with customers mostly based in the Klang Valley, as they deliver for free in this area.

To keep all their meals warm and free of harmful chemicals, they pack the food and hot soups in glass containers and thermal flasks (except for trial meals).

For an added peace of mind, their food delivery bags come with a security padlock and a code only known by its recipient, preventing the food from being tampered with and contaminated.

Though the service mostly targets postnatal mothers, the food is also beneficial for those who’ve just had surgery or abortions, and those going through IVF or preparing to get pregnant.

A nutritious kampung chicken herbal soup / Image Credit: Essence Kitchen

As Essence Kitchen has only launched this year, they’re not the only brand providing this service. 

Some of their competitors include Pheonix Signature Kitchen and Eu Yan Sang.

In terms of pricing, Phoenix Signature Kitchen is on par with Essence Kitchen, although they lack a 7-day package.

Meanwhile, Eu Yan Sang’s packages are:

  • 7-day package at RM1,400
  • 14-day package at RM1,900
  • 28-day package at RM3,500

In terms of affordability and choice of packages, Essence Kitchen takes the lead.

To further stay ahead of the competition, May plans to expand her service options to include meal kits containing pre-packed ingredients with instructions for cooking.

It would seem that this would work best for those who already have a caretaker though.

It’s unlikely that a postnatal mum or post-surgery customer, for examples, would be allowed to cook for themselves.

Bottom Line: Another way that Essence Kitchen could distinguish themselves is by including value-adding initiatives such as educating modern mums on the importance of postnatal confinement and TCM, since they want to keep Zuo Ye Zi alive.

  • You can learn more about Essence Kitchen here.
  • You can read about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: May, founder of Essence Kitchen

Categories: Entrepreneur, Malaysian

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