I never had the luxury of having a Pui Yuet or postpartum nanny cooking for me and taking care of my baby in the days of the long ago when I gave birth to my son as I was far away from family at the time, but I do have memories of my Aunt during her postpartum periods, tucking into delicious dishes which my grandmother would conjure up for her.
Whiffs of rice wine, ginger, vinegar and other mysterious smells would waft from the kitchen, enticing my teenage taste buds as I made my way to the kitchen in the hope of sneaking a bite. More often than not, I was in luck as Grandma would always provide for her favourite granddaughter. Then, in those halcyon days, was sown the seeds of my appreciation for this type of specialised post-natal food that is meant to restore to women their energy and vitality after giving birth and to shore her up for the task of breastfeeding and ensure a steady supply of breastmilk.
According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, pregnancy, labour and delivery are a huge drain on your energy reserves. A balanced diet with adequate nutrition during the one-month post natal confinement period is vital to restore you to good health. During this month ‘cold’ foods like many fruits, salads, etc. are to be avoided and ‘hot’ foods like ginger and nourishing foods like pigs trotters (for its collagen), liver, liver and more liver (source of iron), pork in all cuts but especially the skin (again for the collagen) and wood ear fungus (for more iron, B vitamins and anti-coagulant properties) are encouraged.
Today, we don’t have to give birth to a baby to enjoy this postpartum food. A newly-opened restaurant in Canning Garden, on the road connecting the two roundabouts of Canning and Ipoh Garden, in a small bungalow with the large number ‘2’ on the front, sits the O Cafe, a modest family-style restaurant that is bustling with activity,
Lvi Choong, one of the proprietors, came and took our orders. When asked why postpartum specialties, she was quick to explain that she used to run a postpartum nursing home in Canning Garden and the idea for a restaurant came. And what a successful idea it has turned out to be. Most days, the restaurant is full at lunchtime and well into the afternoon filling up again towards the evening when people finish work. And since they open throughout the day, people are always drifting in and having a bowl of this and a plate of that.
And there are many delectable bowls and plates to choose from. The menu is relatively simple (only two pages) but the selection is tempting. On my first visit, we were a group of 8 people and we ordered almost every item on the menu. My second visit saw me filling in the blanks and making up by ordering the rest that I didn’t have a chance to taste.
In deference to space limitations, I shall mention here some of the dishes which I consider ‘must haves’ according to my palate. Naturally the first must-have in the postpartum diet is the Vinegar Pig’s Trotters. Believed to purify the blood, improve blood circulation and to expel wind and dampness from the body, the vinegar trotters served here were tender, succulent and not too sweet. Just perfect for my lack of a sweet tooth – RM12.90.
The next ‘de rigueur’ dish is the Wine Chicken, chicken pieces in sweet rice wine with hints of ginger, and chunks of black wood fungus – RM13.90. This was followed by more chicken, this time a whole chicken drumstick steamed with accompanying goji berries or Gei Tsi. Although on the menu steamed chicken drumstick did not sound or look appealing, on tasting, I found it to be succulently tender, the fresh taste of chicken delicately enhanced by the very light marinade and the little bit of sauce created by the steam as it cooks. It specifies a 20-minute wait for this item so order this first before any of the other dishes as those arrive very quickly – RM15.90.
Two pork ‘must haves’ are their Spicey Belly Slice at RM12.90 and their Braised Pork Belly with Black Fungus – RM12.90. The spiced belly which was sliced finely had quite a bit of fire to it while the braised version was cut in chunks and gently braised to perfection, lending flavour to the Wood Ear fungus with its gelatinous sauce. Pork is the predominant meat on the menu and come in a cornucopia of options, each one hearty, robust and meant to boost energy and restore the blood.
An egg dish which bears mention is their Egg and Ginger Soup, a typical postpartum dish that is redolent of ginger which is incorporated into the omelette made with minced pork. This can be ordered with a choice of Mishua (very thin variety of salted Chinese noodles made from wheat flour), Lo Shu Fun (short rice noodles) or Vermicelli or on its own – RM9.90. I particularly enjoyed their Crabmeat Crispy Mishua which came in a soupy sauce with the noodles still crispy at the edges – RM14.90.
And the list goes on. Some dishes tastier than others but in general, the cooking here is well worth visiting and revisiting.2 OCafe 2 Jalan Raja Kam, Taman Canning, Ipoh. Tel: Lvi Choong 014 339 3796. Business Hours: 11am-8pm. Closed Fridays.