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Soup Name: Monkey Head Mushroom with Chinese Yam in Pork Broth
Chinese Name: 猴頭菇豬湯 (hóu tóu gū zhū tāng)
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Home » Confinement Soups, Featured Articles

My Confinement Story

Submitted by on November 2, 2010 – 12:17 pm15 Comments | 49,633 views

You may have noticed that over the past few months we have been posting many pregnancy and confinement soup recipes to this site.  As this blog closely follows the soups we are making for ourselves and for our families, you’ve probably already guessed that we have had a pregnancy in the family.  Actually, we’ve had TWO!

On September 1, 2010, our sister Carol delivered a healthy baby boy and exactly one month later, on October 1, I (Tracy) welcomed my second daughter into the world.  Carol and I and our babies both enjoyed very normal delivery experiences.  Besides feeling only slightly weaker, after my daughter was born, I felt happy and healthy and ready to begin my month of post-pregnancy “confinement”.

My daughter. Photo taken October 5, 2010

Before I begin, you should know that my sisters and I are not into “extreme confinement”.  That is, we do not strictly confine ourselves to our home, we shower regularly and we even turn on the air conditioner!   That said, we do, however, take our confinement food (especially our soups, of course!) seriously.

Now that my confinement is done, here is a brief summary of my personal confinement story from a soupy perspective.

The Constants

There were several soups I was required to drink throughout the entire confinement period.   Every day, I drank three to five BIG bowls of soup.   Each bowl was the equivalent of five or six smaller bowls (similar to the soup sizes served in Chinese restaurants) and it gave me a pleasant and warm feeling of being warm and full for most of the day.   My confinement lady (a.k.a. our wonderful mother who is a true Chinese soup lady) cooked at least two different soups every day made from ingredients purchased fresh each day from the nearby wet markets in Hong Kong.  The two constant soups I drank throughout the day were:

Papaya Fish Soup – This soup is delicious and healthy and is used to help with milk production.  When I was engorged (too much milk!) I continued to drink fish soup without the green papaya; instead, we substituted healthy vegetables such as sweet corn and tomatoes.

Chicken Herbal Soup – Everyday, a large pot of chicken soup was made with TWO fresh chickens (black chickens were preferred).   Using two chickens made for a very dense and nutritious soup.  Drinking “heaty” soups is essential during confinement and so staple herbs included dried longans and fish stomach (pronounced as “fa gao” in Cantonese).   Wolfberries and red dates for sweetness were also staples in the soup.  Whenever I felt too heaty, we would not include any fish stomach or longans in the soup.

Pig’s Feet with Ginger in Black Vinegar – Another “constant” in the second half of my confinement period (after the 13th day) was the traditional ginger and vinegar “soup”.  Almost every day, I would eat a small bowl of some pork meat and a boiled chicken egg which had been sitting and marinating in the tangy and delicious stew for days… yum!

The Uniques

Occasionally, my mom also made other drinks and soups for me to drink based on my specific needs.

Black Bean, Rice and Ginger Water – For example, while I was still at the hospital (the day of delivery), I started to drink an almost tasteless concoction made of water with boiled black beans, rice and ginger.   This drink is said to help reduce “wind” in the body and “warm” it up to help with the healing process after giving birth.  Instead of drinking water, whenever I felt thirsty, I was encouraged to drink this for the first week after delivery.   After my milk came in, we stopped drinking this and focused on fish and chicken soups instead.

Turtle with Lean Pork SoupSoft-shelled turtles are a “healing” meat and are often consumed even outside of confinement / pregnancy.   I drank this soup for only two days half-way through my confinement period to continue to help with the healing process.   This should be consumed only if you are not sick as it is believed to “feed” your sickness as well.

Deer Antler with Korean Ginseng Soup – My sister drank this during her confinement as it is also considered a “healing” drink and popular among Chinese as a confinement soup.  However, when it came time for me to drink this soup, I was already feeling too “heaty” and so we did not make this for me.   Similar to turtle soup, this should be avoided if you are ill or have a fever.

Foods to Avoid

All “cooling” foods and soups should be avoided during confinement.   I occasionally craved the cooling foods, but was a “good girl” and resisted until after my confinement month was done.   Even now, I am still only nibbling at “cool” foods and soups and will continue to do so until after the third month.   Foods I avoided include:

I also avoided foods which are believed to be slightly “poisonous”:

  • Beef
  • Duck
  • Crab and other shellfish

Although I’m sure there are many other cooling and poisonous foods which should be avoided, these are the foods which stood out for me because I eat or drink them on a regular basis and had to consciously avoid them.

And here ends my confinement story.  I’m happy to say the month is now done and I feel more free to do and eat what I please.  If you have other tips or foods to eat or avoid during confinement, please share with us and our readers by posting to our comments.

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15 Comments »

  • Mel says:

    Congratulations on your new babies!! It’s always exciting to have new cuties in the family…and how I wish that I’d seen your website earlier before my 2nd one is born (1yr ago) so that I’d have more ideas on what to eat during my confinement! Anyway, I love your wonderful blog!

  • Lisa says:

    Great story and great advice to follow. Although I will not likely be going through confinement again, it sure is great to have mom around right? Definitely still partake in the soup consumption because it’s good for my health!

  • Yvonne says:

    Congratulations, Lady Tong. Your daughter is adorable!

  • CK says:

    Congratulations! The selection of soups are very good. I drank them too after I had my girls. Continue good health & happiness.

  • La Jolla Mom says:

    Aww…..congrats. Love this post! Miss you. 🙂

  • Lola says:

    Great site. Thanks for all the recipes and tips. Do you know if one has a c-section, would she be drinking the same soups and what to avoid? Thanks much!

  • Tracy says:

    It is so encouraging to hear from our readers. Thanks to everyone for your continued post and comments of support 🙂

    Tracy

  • Jenson says:

    Apologies if this sounds weird but would you be able to share with me the contact for your confinement lady?

    My wife is due next july, and its such a nightmare trying to secure a good reliable CL by word of mouth…

    much appreciated!

  • Jenson says:

    oOps..sorry just realized your CL aka your mummy dearest.. ^^

  • LadyTong says:

    Dear Jenson, my CL is actually my mom! She’s gone through 6 grand kids and is a pro now. I agree it’s not easy to find a CL, check the various web forums (if you are in HK, geobaby is a good one). Sorry that I can’t be of more help! I wish you all the best in the upcoming pregnancy and congrats! Lisa

  • Luvena says:

    Dear Lady Tong,

    Lovely blog! Great information that I seriously need. My friend and her husband recently delivered their first baby and after a week of struggling, they’ve asked if I could prepare the confinement meals for her. Their families are in Taiwan and I have no prior experience. It is difficult to find ingredients such as fresh carp, deer antler, ginseng and even green papaya here in Fredericton, NB where we live. Are you able to roughly list how much of each ingredient is required for a few confinement dishes and can I use ripe papaya instead of green?

  • Luvena says:

    Oh wait, I just saw the recipes for confinement soups 🙂 Would love to gather any tips/ ideas you might have for confinement foods that’s good for the health (and that her husband can consume too).

  • LadyTong says:

    Dear Luvena,
    Thanks for your comments! Don’t worry about the weird ingredients – especially in NB! Ginger is something that you can find, so use that in abundance! Use that in fried rice, soups, teas. I’d really recommend using green papayas (there’s a contradictory story that goes around saying ripe papaya will slow down milk production). I’m not sure to the truth of that, but I drank ripe papaya towards the end of my confinement and the drinking of soup (liquids in general) helped increase milk. But that could be other contributing factors too. I’d say go with ginger and garlic (those are your safest and most readily available ingredients). Hope this helps! Lisa

  • mommaTang says:

    Hi Soup Momma. I’m expecting my fourth soon so I’ve been through this before. However my friend told me that she wasn’t allowed to drink juice (like a nice refreshing cold glass of juice from the fridge) during the month of confinement. Have you ever heard of that before and does it even make sense? Then how could she be allowed to drink water?

  • LadyTong says:

    Hi mommaTang, I think they caution cold drinks, cold air, cold water, cold anything during confinement because your body lost lots of “heat” during the birth. This is why you drink heaty and warm soups and drinks to rebuild your blood supply as well as bring back the “wind” and “warmth”. This also applies to washing your hair. Back in the days – when they had little heat and virtually no electricity, they probably didn’t shower, bathe or wash their hairs for that reason – you become cool and the “wind’ enters your body, which doesn’t bode well for confinement. Now with heated bathrooms and hair dryers, people do wash themselves and their hair and just dry it immediately afterwards. But yes, as a caution, stay away from cold drinks (drink room temp water or even hot water if you can) and stay away from cold ventilation, cold air and drafts. It’s a long standing Chinese tradition. As well, confinement is a period where you can either “make” or “Break” your body’s well-being (for the long term). I’ve heard of people have a kid just so they can do confinement again to fix ailments! Hope this helps and all the best! Lisa

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