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Vegetarian Recipes for Traditional Confinement in Childbirth

Rachel Tseng

I have chosen to go with the traditional confinement in childbirth, which means no bathing (but wipe clean with boiled ginger water), no washing hair, no going out, remaining free and lying down and resting, no working but just breastfeeding and enjoying the rare, idle month. Yet, what kind of food should I be consuming during the “vegetarian” confinement period? My mom had a hard time coming up with recipes for this daughter who does not even take eggs or milk. So, I might as well reorganize the collected information. By referring to existing recipes and using widely available ingredients that meet the requirements of traditional confinement, I did energy testing and formulated confinement recipes that are consistent in energy. However, since these recipes are limited to seasons and geographical location and some ingredients may not be available, it is best for one to learn how to test energy. Energy testing not only helps you avoid wrong food intake, but also enables you to make food selection, based on your preference or instinct, to suit your body needs.

I would like to share with you my traditional vegetarian recipes for confinement. Actually, a vegetarian diet can be quite sumptuous even for the confinement period. However, the digestive system is a little weak during this month, so remember to have more meals but little food at each meal, because overeating will harm the stomach and intestines.

Some food can be prepared prior to giving birth:

Preserved Red Dates

After becoming pregnant, get some red dates, immerse them in rice wine and soak overnight. When they are swelled up, keep in a container and sprinkle with brown sugar after each layer of red dates, then seal the container. Three months later, the dates will become preserved red dates. If you want it to last, refrigerate it in two weeks’ time. It can be used as an ingredient for cooking during the confinement period or can be eaten as a snack; not only is it delicious, but also induces milk production.

Fermented Glutinous Rice

Sesame Dumpling

Filling: Mix sesame powder and wild yam powder (ratio of 5 to 1), add some honey and oil so that the powder sticks together but not too wet or too sticky, rub into ball shape and store in the freezer.

Skin: Add water to glutinous rice powder and knead into a dough, take 1/20 portion and cook in boiling water. When it floats, put it back to the glutinous rice dough. Add some more glutinous rice powder and knead until it becomes non-sticky. Split the dough into pieces to wrap the filling, and then freeze the wrapped dumplings. When the dumplings are stiff, pack them into bags and keep them in the freezer.

Fermented glutinous rice: You can buy it from the market or make it using sweet brown rice and brewer’s yeast.

To serve, cook dumplings in boiling water until they surface, then add fermented glutinous rice and brown sugar.

Adzuki Sweet Rice Dumpling

Adzuki filling: soak organic adzuki beans overnight. With little water, cook and simmer the beans until soft. Strain the beans (the water can be served as adzuki bean drink), add some brown sugar and oil (oil is optional). Mash the mixture to make it into adzuki filling. Refrigerate the filling.

Soak overnight sweet brown rice, black glutinous rice and quinoa (ratio of 7:1:1), add ½ teaspoon of sesame oil and cook the rice mix. When the rice is cooked, mix in red dates (or the preserved red dates mentioned earlier) and walnuts. Place adzuki filling inside the rice, wrap to make into rice dumplings. Store dumplings in the freezer. To serve, simply steam the dumplings.

Recipes for the Confinement Period

Traditional confinement does not recommend drinking water so as to avoid prolapse of internal organs or change in body figure. Only take the liquid of rice, vegetables or soup stock cooked in wine. Also, wine helps stimulate milk production. A midwife even told me that drinking some beer would help increase milk production. Expediently, I asked mother to use half portion of water and half portion of wine [water-wine blend] for cooking, that way it is not too costly and the food tastes better. Basically, I replaced all meat items in non-vegetarian recipes with organic, non-GMO soy protein (i.e., soy meat or vegetable soy protein). The portions of ingredients, except those specifically specified, can be altered as wish. Do not cook too much at one time for the dish may not suit your appetite or you may get tired of eating the same dish; so prepare a quantity that can be finished in a day or two.

Dried kumquat that helps qi circulation was the first nutritional food medicine I took after giving birth. To prepare, quick fry ginger strips (a lot) with sesame oil, then add sliced or chopped dried kumquat. It smells and tastes really good, very much like candies. Shenghua (生化汤) soup helps eliminating lyma and is best taken within the first seven days of the confinement period. Combination of hawthorn (山楂) and brown sugar also helps getting rid of lyma. Drink Shiquan (十全大朴汤) nutritional soup and Shenghua soup during the first seven days of the confinement period. After that, take the hawthorn and brown sugar mixture until the end of confinement.


Blood Enriching Rice

1. Black glutinous rice (mainly) and millet (ratio of 10 to 1), add in red dates, longan, white hyacinth beans (白扁豆), and a little bit of Chinese angelica (当归)and Radix astragali (黃苠). Add more water than normal amount used for cooking rice because millet absorbs lots of water. (extracted from Dr. Jiang Shuhui’s recipe book. Energy testing indicated that there was no need for any ingredient change).

2. Soak chestnut until they are swollen. Steam chestnuts until they are cooked. Combine chestnuts with Chinese mushrooms, red dates, some ginger, sweet brown rice, millet, water-wine blend and cook the combination into rice or porridge.

3. Soak sweet brown rice and peanuts overnight. Cook into porridge using lots of water. It really helps with milk production.


1. Dried Tangerine Peel (陈皮)and Glutinous Rice Porridge
Soak sweet brown rice overnight. Add ginger, longan, brown sugar and dried tangerine peel (just a small piece, not too much), water-wine blend and cook into porridge

2. Longan Porridge
Soak brown rice (mainly) overnight, some quinoa and millet (ratio of 6:1:1). Add lots of water and cook into porridge. Then add longan, some fermented glutinous rice, and lastly top with roasted, crushed walnuts.


Green vegetables suitable for consumption during confinement are Gynura’s Deux Couleurs (紅凤叶), sweet potato leaves, red amaranth, A-vegetable A 菜), spinach, etc. Before stir frying vegetables, use sesame oil or bitter-tea oil (苦茶油) to quickly fry old ginger strips. Do not add any condiments. Red cabbage and broccoli are also acceptable, only that eating too much of them will cause bloating to the baby; thus minimize the intake.

1. Vegetarian Sesame Chicken. Quick fry sesame oil with old ginger strips and Chinese mushrooms. Add in soy meat and stir fry briefly, then add in cubed carrots, some Chinese wolfberry fruit(枸杞) and water-wine blend to cover the ingredients. Cook until soft.

2. Quick fry old ginger and Chinese mushrooms. Add in soy meat and stir fry briefly. Then add some kelp, Chinese wolfberry fruit ,dried kumquat, a little bit of Chinese angelica and water-wine blend to cover the ingredients. Cook until soy meat is soft. The dish smells and tastes good (Radix astragali and liquorice root are not suitable for this dish).

3. Burdock, soy meat, wild yam, sweet potato, Chinese wolfberry fruit and some Chinese angelica, Radix astragali, liquorice root. Cook the combination until soft.

4. Quick fry old ginger strips and Chinese mushrooms with bitter-tea oil, add in soy meat, burdock and kelp, stir fry briefly, pour in water-wine blend and cook until soft. Add some brown sugar if you wish (burdock and brown sugar can be replaced by purple perilla (紫苏) and rock sugar).

5. Soak overnight hyacinth beans (白扁豆). Quick fry ginger and Chinese mushrooms, add hyacinth beans, carrot, a little bit of orange peel and water-wine blend. Cook until soft (orange peel should not be replaced by grapefruit peel because the latter halves the energy).

6. Cook the mixture of black dates, red dates, Chinese wolfberry fruit, longan, a little bit of Chinese angelica, Radix astragali and liquorice root.


1. Green papaya: quick fry old ginger with sesame oil, pour in water-wine blend and bring to boil. Add Chinese wolfberry fruit and cubed green papaya. Cook until green papaya slightly softens (optional: walnuts can be included in the cooking).
2. Longan and peanut soup: soak peanuts overnight. Boil the peanuts with water until soft. Add in longan, fermented glutinous rice and molasses and it is ready to serve.
3. Adzuki ginger soup: soak adzuki beans overnight. Cook and simmer beans and old ginger in water-wine blend until beans are soft. Add in oatmeal and rock sugar to finish up.


There are many kinds of food that help with milk production, for example, peanuts, sesame seeds, glutinous rice, fermented glutinous rice (food with alcohol content), brewer’s yeast, and stone fruits such as walnuts, almond, pine nuts, peanuts, etc; these can be served the same way as sesame paste. Generally, vegetables that secrete milk when harvested help with milk production; sweet potato leaves and green papaya are among them. Many types of lettuce also secrete milk when they are harvested. Alfalfa also helps with milk production, but it is cooling in nature and is the type of food traditional confinement try to avoid. But you can take it after the confinement period. I heard that food that might cause lower milk production include Chinese chives, wheat tea(麦茶),fermented bean curd, fermented soybeans, black bean or anise drinks (I also heard that black bean milk promotes lactation, but black bean boiled in water or stir fried lowers milk production), I was not sure of that, so I avoided eating black beans.

For fruits, consider grapes, plum, peach, papaya, lychee, longan and other fruits that are warming in nature (fruits are high in water content, thus by traditional confinement, fruits are not taken until one to two weeks after giving birth).

Feel free to sprinkle brewer’s yeast, dulse, sesame seed powder or a combination of your choice on dishes or rice.

I would like to deliver special thanks to my mother, having flown half of the planet to the US and help me with the confinement. She carefully prepared every meal for me and took detailed notes on the recipes so that anyone who plans to go on a “vegetarian confinement” can benefit from it. I sincerely wish that every woman is just as lucky to have a kind mother to accompany her through a safe and smooth confinement period.