Confinement is a traditional practice of postpartum care given to mothers after the birth of a new baby. Many cultures in Asia believe that during the month immediately following the birth of a child, new mothers are prone to certain ailments and must be given special care to ensure a full recovery.
Part of the recovery process is, of course, preparing special nutritious and delicious confinement soups (or see below for the complete list) with specific ingredients to aid the healing process and prevent future health issues. Specifically, “heaty” or “hot” foods are encouraged and also soups to prevent or reduce ”wind” in the body. Certain soups are also given to encourage increased milk production so mothers can more easily feed their babies.
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Below are a list of ingredients typically used in confinement soups and their special restorative and preventative properties.
List of confinement soup ingredients
Codonopsis Pilosula Root
The root of the codonopsis pilosula plant, also known as poor man’s ginseng, is known for many health benefits. During the postpartum period, it is used as a blood tonic to nourish the blood and to improve uterine function.
Chinese Angelica Root
Similar to most confinement ingredients, chinese angelica root (dang gui) is “heaty”. It is a very common ingredient in most confinement recipes due to it’s qualities as a uterine and blood tonic.
Ginger is a very “heaty” food. In particular, old ginger is used when making several confinement soups and dishes, and even for bathing!
Longan is a very heaty fruit. Specifically, dried longans are used in confinement soups to aid relaxation and as a sleep aid. They also give soups a tasty natural sweetness.
Protein is considered of vital importance during the confinement period. Meats permitted (and even encouraged) include chicken (black preferred), fish, and pork. When making confinement soups, use one of these meats as your base broth flavour. Beef, duck and seafood are to be avoided. Boiled eggs are also a popular confinement meat and can taste especially delicious when boiled directly in your soup.
Black and/or white pepper is liberally added to some soups to drive the extra “wind” out from the body. Confinement soups can be spicy!
Dried red dates are believed to nourish the blood. They are also a great natural sweetener. They may be eaten along with the soup.
Sesame oil is mainly used in confinement recipes for its “heaty” nature. It is also known as an energy rejuvenator.
Dried wolfberries are very popular in Chinese soups due to their many positive properties. In the West, they are said to be high in antioxidants. In the East, Chinese and other Asians really enjoy drinking soups and teas made with this ingredient because they believe wolfberries nourish the “Yin’, enhance the “Chi” and tonify the blood. It is also thought to help eliminate fatigue.
List of confinement soups
Abalone in Chicken Soup
Apple and Corn in Chicken Soup
Black Beans, Rice and Ginger Tea
Black Beans Herbal Soup
Chicken Herbal Soup (Concentrated version – less water, more herbs or double-boil it)
Deer Antler Healing Soup
Fish Maw with Seabed Coconut and Pork Bones
Green Papaya, Fish & Dried Octopus Soup
Herbal Pork Soup with Longans (and Ginger)
Longan Meat in Turtle Soup
Orange Vegetable Fish Soup
Papayas and Chestnuts in Pork Broth
Papaya and Corn with Yam in Pork Broth
Papaya Fish Soup
Pig’s Feet with Ginger in Black Vinegar
Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup Dessert
Tomato Fish Soup
Tomato Fish Soup with Tofu
Turtle with Lean Pork Soup
Winter Chicken Soup
Wood Ear & Red Dates Tea
Worm Grass and Chicken Soup