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Mar 23, 2012 03:58 PM

Fish maw for Chinese soup

I picked up a dried fish maw from a Chinese store, with the goal of making Chinese fish maw soup.

Does anyone have a good recipe or good ideas/advice on how to make soup with fish maw? I searched my Chinese cookbook collection and couldn't find one single mention of this soup. I found a few recipes on the internet, but I'm not thrilled with any of them.

Thank you for any replies!

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  1. I like to add fish maw to a corn chowder. Really adds a nice dimension to the chowder.

    Wintermelon soup with longan, black fungus, and some fish maw is wonderful as well.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Mmmm. I'm not sure what sounds so appealing about that winter melon soup, but if you have a recipe I would love to try it!

      1. re: acecil

        what is wrong with winter melon soup? It is a very popular soup in Chinese cuisine.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Hey, Chem, I believe acecil said "appealing" not "appalling" ...

        2. re: acecil

          With the wintermelon soup, it's usually about half a wintermelon, cored and seeded, and cut into big chunks (keep the skin).

          Add the wintermelon to chicken or vegetable stock, along with the longan, sliced ginger, fish maw (soaked overnight), red dates, conpoy (optional) and some goji berries. Bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer for about 1 hour.

          While simmering, soak the black fungus in some water to soften it up. Then add it to the soup and let it simmer for another 1/2 hour.

          1. re: acecil

            I am a simpler verison than ipsedixit.

            Just watermelon (I don't keep the skin), cured ham, a touch of salt. You can now add or not add fish maw.

        3. You can pretty much add to any Chinese soups. It add a texture to the soup and transform the final product.

          Wintermelon + Chinese ham + fish maw is great
          but really just try it on anything.

          1. Thank you so much for the great replies!
            Those really are great ideas, and they encourage me to experiment with ingredients I haven't worked with before, something I'm always looking to do.

            To prepare the fish maw, I assume I just need to soak it overnight?

            2 Replies
            1. re: ethnicchower

              I didn't soak overnight, but a few hours.

              It really depends to be honest. I like to futher cut the fish maw pieces, as such I have to soak them until they are tender to be cut. However, you can rinse the pieces in water and just cook with them -- if you have no desire to cut them.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Got it. I'd like to cut it in pieces, so I'll soak it for a few hours.
                Thank you!

            2. Did you get one that's fried or not?

              Fried ones look like styrofoam.

              10 Replies
              1. re: cutipie721

                Photo is attached. Yeah, styrofoam would be a good way to describe it.

                Do they require different treatments? Which one is preferred?

                1. re: ethnicchower

                  They are used slightly differently by my family. I personally preferred the fried ones (as in your picture). Just make sure you rinse it well after soaking, some have sand/grit in them that makes it unpleasant when used in soup.

                  The fried ones I cut up (after soaking), and make a soup with chicken broth, shredded chicken breast and crab meat. It's more of a "tasty" soup
                  Where as the other fish maw, is used for more "healthy" soups by my mom. Though she keeps telling me to use them in congee.

                  1. re: gnomatic

                    OK cool. I'm happy with "tasty" :)

                    So the soaking time is the same for both types?

                    1. re: ethnicchower

                      I think it takes longer to soak for the non-fried type. They are much harder, almost plastic like in it's dried state.

                      But I never had a problem with leaving the fried ones soaking over-night.

                      I was taught to soaked them first before using...though the amount of grit/sand in them seems proportional to the quality(and price?). I have no idea how to determine the "good ones" so the ones I get tend to have grit, whereas the ones my mom purchased for me never had that problem. Another example of mom knows best I guess :-)

                      1. re: gnomatic

                        "I think it takes longer to soak for the non-fried type. They are much harder, almost plastic like in it's dried state. "


                        I have never had any grit with the non-fried ones.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          "I have never had any grit with the non-fried ones."

                          Oh, I meant the fried ones. I never bought (or cooked) any of the non-fried ones on my own.
                          I am bewildered at how much variation there can be in price for fish maw, would like to know how to tell the good quality one.

                          1. re: gnomatic

                            The quality of the fish maw depends on the type of fish -- larger fish or fish bladder, better fish maw.

                            But if you don't know the provenance of your maw, look at the color. A deeper yellow color signifies a higher quality fish maw.

                            1. re: gnomatic

                              :) I know. I am just saying that it appears to be only a problem for the fried one. Usually the larger fish maw and uniform fish maw are more expensive. Do they worth the price, that is really up to you.

                              1. re: gnomatic

                                Good ones are supposed to be big and thick. Deeper yellow means they've been aged longer, supposed to be better (in what ways, i don't know).

                                They should also be free from...
                                white spots - problems during drying
                                black spots - dried blood spots
                                green/brown spots - bad fish butchering, gall bladder juice got on the fish maw

                                I'm pretty sure the ones sold at my local Chinatown are being bleached with chemicals. They all look too.... spotless.

                                People put lots of focus on the mouthfeel and whether it melts as quickly during cooking. I'm not sure if there's any additional health benefits by getting the more expensive kind if you're only after the collagen.

                      2. re: ethnicchower

                        I've never dealt with fried ones. High quality fish maws don't usually get fried. People believe it should be al dente and thick when served. Good ones have better mouthfeel. There are restaurants that serve fish maw "steaks", which is basically braised fish maw served in a steak form.


                        However, these qualities may contradict to what you want as the end result. It can get confusing to explain each application. It starts by identifying whether the fish maw came from a male or female fish.....

                        There are also a few basic key things that you need to look out for when you pick the non-fried varieties. Maybe in another response if you're interested.

                        As for me, I only go after the collagen it provides. All varieties of fish maw are good. Every variety will shine with proper cooking method.

                        Anyway, what you have here is going to act like a sponge. It does not require any prolong cooking to make it edible. I've only seen people using it in quick soups, like egg-drop soup. Certain not any soups that require hours and hours of simmering. I think they work better in plated food. They don't (should not) have a pronounced taste, they definitely need some help from sauces, but at the same time they can provide some umami punch in the background.

                        Here's one of my favorite dimsum items that could be made into a dish:

                        Equal amount of...
                        soaked and squeezed-dried fried fish maw
                        chicken thigh meat
                        soaked and squeezed-dried shitake mushroom

                        Seasoning: soy sauce, ginger, s&white pepper, rice wine, sesame oil, oyster sauce (highly recommended but optional


                        Mix everything, spread out in a deep plate, sprinkle a little bit of goji berries on top (optional but highly recommended), and steam until chicken's cooked through (10-15mins?).

                        As seen here: