If you grew up in a Chinese household, it’s most likely a norm to see female relatives go through a month-long confinement period after birth stuffing themselves with wholesome and healthy meals.
However, Chinese Muslim mothers may not be able to get the most out of traditional confinement meals, as many ingredients contain cooking wine or pork.
Zara Agnes, who’s a Chinese Muslim mother herself, was looking for Halal Chinese confinement food when she had her first baby in 2011.
Because she was unable to find such a service then, she resorted to making confinement meals herself by tweaking some recipes.
For Other Chinese Muslim Mothers
5 years after that, Zara still had no success in finding such a service. So, she took it upon herself to start Halal Chinese Confinement Food (HCCF).
“My intention and focus is to introduce the benefits of Chinese confinement food to all mothers of any ethnicity, especially during the crucial confinement period,” Zara shared with Vulcan Post.
It took her a few years of R&D to recreate Chinese confinement meals with substitute ingredients for the meals to taste as close as they could get to the original version. At the same time, they need to maintain the herbal benefits of these meals for a fast recovery.
“We replaced yellow/rice wine in most dishes to maintain the taste and used chicken for the famous vinegar pork trotter in Chinese confinement instead,” she shared an example.
According to Zara, these meals are not even available in Chinese Muslim restaurants.
Working With Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctors
Currently, HCCF is a team of 4 that collaborates with a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, dietitians, nutritionists, and more.
Though Zara doesn’t have a culinary background, she came from a family of chefs.
“My grandfather, who was originally from Guangdong, China, was known to have made the claypot chicken rice famous in Kampar. Some of my uncles and cousins are also chefs themselves,” she shared.
Her aunt is an experienced confinement practitioner who taught her the tricks of the trade. While she learns from her aunt, she also checks in with their traditional Chinese medicine doctor on the ingredients every now and then to learn more about them.
Her business is entirely online now. When orders come in, her kitchen assistants will receive and pack them to be sent out to their delivery partners.
“For our main service which is our confinement food delivery, we have a dashboard where we can see the daily confinement food orders, like how many clients we are serving for the day, special dietary needs, or even special menus for post-surgery customers.”
Creating Her Own Recipe Too
On their menu, they have sesame oil chicken, black vinegar chicken, steamed chicken with angelica root (dong quai), mee sua, confinement herbal soups, red dates longan tea, and more.
“I do not hope to deviate from the traditional way, so we ensure our recipes are Halal-prepared while maintaining the essential herbs and ingredients that provide the nutritions needed for a speedy recovery after childbirth and/or a major surgery,” Zara shared.
However, she did innovate her own recipe of black charcoal noodles with black pepper salmon, which fortunately was well-received by her customers.
For freshly-made confinement meals, all of them come in a set of 2 main dishes, 1 vegetable dish (2 portions), rice, and a confinement drink. Only the Complete Set comes with a confinement herbal soup. Their packages are:
|Sets||Price Range (depending on duration)|
|Simple||RM748 to RM4,188|
|Complete||RM948 to RM5,788|
They also have lactation brownies and cookies to boost milk production for mothers and their own bird’s nest drink. Entering the Muslim market with their bird’s nest wasn’t easy, though, as there were many who questioned its Halal status because they weren’t familiar with the drink. However, Zara assured that their bird’s nest drinks were Halal-certified by JAKIM.
Editor’s Note: The above paragraph has been changed to reflect greater factual accuracy.
The majority of her customers are Malay Muslim and Chinese Muslim mothers, as well as international clients from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, and the UK.
“You would be surprised to know that we also have Chinese clients as well. They told me they’re tired of the pork menu other Chinese confinement food deliveries serve, so our confinement food package is a fresh take,” Zara shared.
She and her team have just launched their Halal-licious Asian cuisine kitchen where their menu changes monthly to satisfy mothers’ cravings (her own included).
Furthermore, they’re working on expanding their product mix, something that they’ve been doing R&D on for about 2 years now.
- You can learn more about Halal Chinese Confinement Food here.
- You can read about other startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Zara Agnes, founder of Halal Chinese Confinement Food