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Oct 27, 2013 10:33 AM

Shanghai fish gluten

I had this at Sha Bistro and see they have it at a bunch of other Shanghai places in Fremont and Milpitas. It's very good, a light fried spherical puff that's airier, chewier, and more flavorful than fried tofu. Menu listings include:


Does this actually have gluten in it? From the two garbled English-language recipes I find online it sounds like it might actually be 100% fish and named that because the texture is reminiscent of wheat gluten.

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  1. Both 面筋 and 麵筋 mean wheat gluten, and honestly I can't imagine any Chinese restaurants using these terms in dishes unless there is actual wheat gluten in it.

    1. Definitely sounds like wheat gluten. In Taiwanese restaurants in the DC metro area it's common to find both gluten puffs- big and kind of slimy and light with sauce, but also variants mixing gluten, crumbled soft tofu, and seafood (crab seems most common) in a clear sauce.Does that sound anything like what you had?

      1. Ain't no gluten in fish you got to add it.
        Fried Gluten Puff with Seafood Filling ( 油面筋塞海鲜)
        油面筋塞海鲜 (You Mian Jing Sai Hai Xian)

        A super delicious fried gluten puff filled with the tender and juicy shrimp and fish.

        Check How to Use this Chinese Cooking Blog for more tips on finding your desired recipes.
        1/4 lb shrimp, 1/4 lb fish, 1 green onion, 2 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, a pinch of salt and sugar, a few drops of sesame oil.
        12 fried gluten puffs, 6 cups of chicken stock (see Homemade Chicken Stock for more details)

        Prepare the filling
        1. Remove skin and veins from 1/4 lb shrimp, chop into small bits. Chop 1/2 fish fillet into small bits (tilapia, cod, swai fish are all good choices). Place the shrimp and fish bits to a mixing bowl.
        2. Add a pinch of salt and sugar to the mixing bowl, add 1 fine chopped green onion, 2 tablespoon corn starch, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, a few drops of sesame oil, mix all ingredients evenly.

        Fill the fried gluten puff and boil
        3. Use a finger to poke a hole in the gluten puff, and then use thumb finger to press the internal of the puff gentle to open space for the filling.
        4. Use a small spoon to scoop the filling and stick into the gluten puff, until the puff is filled with the filling.
        5. Add 6 cups of chicken stock to a medium size cooking pot, boil.
        6. Place the dozen gluten puffs to the chicken stock, boil, then turn heat to medium, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, occasionally press the puffs to the stock using a tool (chopstick, etc) so that they can absorb more soup and become soft and tender.

        1 Reply
        1. re: wolfe

          These are unfilled, airy puffs; hollow, slightly deflated spheres, like balloons. There's a picture here:

          This seems close:

          Nothing in the balls but fish, egg whites, water chestnut flour, and seasonings. Maybe frying the balls, then scald in boiling water, gives the unusual texture?

          Also might be close if translated properly:

        2. Do they have a gluten-free version?

          (Sorry, couldn't resist…)

          That recipe sounds good. Does one make the gluten puffs, themselves, at home, or purchase them for a Chinese bakery/other?

          3 Replies
          1. re: tsunamimi

            Almost everyone makes their own.;-)
            4 ozs Vital wheat gluten
            5 ozs lukewarm water
            1/4 tsp salt
            Put the wheat gluten in a large bowl.
            Dissolve salt in lukewarm water and pour over the wheat gluten.
            Mix into a dough and knead 8 to 10 times.
            Cover dough and let it stand for 2 hours.
            Heat a wok with 2 cups of oil and when temperature is 350 f, drop tiny pieces of dough to fry until golden brown.
            The puffs are now ready for a variety of recipes.
            VWG available in bulk bins BBE and W.

            1. re: wolfe

              Looks incredibly easy, thanks.

              I once made my own whole wheat gluten. It's basically a bread dough minus the yeast. After kneading it a bunch—as long as you can stand it, really—you then continue kneading it in a bowl of warm water until the starch floats off, leaving behind a blob of gluten. Taking it out of the water, I then kneaded into that some onion powder, and a touch of salt and pepper. It was OK, but figured I'd probably do it again only if I invite vegan and celiac friends to dinner.

              Now I have an even better reason!

            2. There should be no gluten in yu mian jin (魚麵筋). The name simply comes from their visual resemblance to you mian jin (油麵筋), the fried wheat gluten puffs originating in Wuxi and popular in Shanghai. (There's also a bit of an audio pun involved here.)

              I believe they are normally only made from fish flesh, egg whites and water chestnut flour, but I have read that street vendors sometimes stretch the mixture with wheat flour, in which case there would be some gluten involved.

              yu mian jin image search

              you mian jin image search

              Note that there are apparently some you mian jin images in the yu mian jin image search; the Chinese make typos, too. ;-)

              1 Reply
              1. re: soupçon

                thank you Xiao Yang for making it clear that the word for fish, yu, replaced the word for oil, you, in the compound. and the dishes apparently have a similar appearance, so the English rendering isn't necessarily a matter of inaccuracy.