Comforting confinement meals

Syazwani Hj Rosli

All mothers know the importance of recuperation after childbirth. In Brunei, where the majority of the population is Malay, the traditional berpantang (confinement) period is up to 44 days, and usually under the care of one’s own mother or mother-in-law.

Today, new mothers mostly hire a confinement nanny to take care of their health which include the traditional berpantang massage, and herbal bath. They also seek for someone to take care of their confinement meals.

“Confinement food should not be taken lightly for new mothers. Having a nutritious diet throughout the recovering period is important,” said Nurwafiqah Zahherah binti Abdullah Chai, the founder of Erah BN which offers confinement meals for new mothers.

Erah is a 34 year-old Chinese Muallaf who has been living in Brunei for 16 years. She married in 2007 and has three children. She used to work as an accountant at a private company but after giving birth to her third child, she quit her job to be a full-time mother.

While she understood the importance of taking care of her newborn, she knew her family could use the extra income. That’s when she set-up her business to help new mothers with their confinement meals.

Confinement meals by Erah for her customers. PHOTO: ERAH BN

“My intention was to provide healthy recovery meals for new mothers during berpantang so their caretakers can focus on helping them recover.”

The packages she offers vary from meal plan for a week, 14 days, 35 days or 44 days. Her customers can also opt for just one single meal for lunch or for both lunch and dinner or they can order without opting for the packages.

As a Chinese Muslim, Erah said that her confinement meals are cooked with Chinese herbs such as steamed chicken with red dates and goji berries, steamed salmon with ginger or blackpepper, ginseng soup, Motherwort Chicken and Kacangma. “I don’t cook the same dish every day. I prepare something different daily so that my customers will not get bored,” said Erah. She also ensures her food do not contain dyes or preservatives and are low in salt, sugar and oil. Her cooking methods are usually by boiling, roasting, baking and steaming.

However, she said her menu is customisable. Customers can request what they want to have for their pantang meal for the week.

“All ingredients used are fresh. I wake up as early as 4.30am and start cooking for daily orders. We provide delivery with extra charges. Customers can also pick-up their food, which is usually done by the husband.”

Erah said her customers have increased since she started the business. “The majority of my customers are those living independently. They have their own house and they don’t want to burden their parents or in-laws to prepare confinement meals for them. They usually decide to do their pantang practice in their own home.”

She reminded that the confinement meals consumed by the mother are not only beneficial for her, but her newborn as well because the baby is breastfed by the mother.

She is grateful that all her customers who are not very familiar with Chinese confinement meals gave positive feedbacks. “The Chinese are very particular when it comes to confinement practices. So with confinement diet, I have learnt from all three of my previous birthing experiences.

“I was under the care of my mother; she cooked for me and taught me about the essence of confinement cooking. I am blessed because my mother passed down her knowledge, experiences and skills to me, Alhamdulillah.”