Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fish Maw Soup

In Cantonese culinary, 鲍参翅肚 (abalone, sea cucumber, shark fin, and fish stomach) are considered the top four gourmet items from the sea. The fish stomach referenced here is the fish maw.

For those who don’t know, fish maw is the air bladder (also called swim bladder) that is found in all fish except sharks and rays. The maws served in restaurants are usually from the conger pikes. The cleaned maw is dried and then deep fried to make it puffy. In this state it will keep indefinitely. . The maw in itself is a texture ingredient only, it has no fishy taste, and is usually cooked with other strongly flavoured takes on the flavor of surrounding ingredients it is cooked with like a sponge.

Like a lot of ingredients in Chinese culinary traditions, the fish maw is an excellent source of collagen and is
regarded as a nourishing tonic that helps blood circulation and beneficial to the general health. 

Now we know what they are, how can we prepare them for cooking? 

Fish maws are sold dried in two forms – deep fried or non-deep fried. Deep fried fish maws are puffy, light and look like a yellow sponge or pork rind. Whereas the other type is in stiff, cream-colored sheet. For the deep fried ones, all you have to do is to soak them in cold water or simmer to reconstitute to rid of some of the oil.  For the non-deep fried ones,  deep fry them in moderately hot oil until it puffs up and become white. Then soak it until pliable and also to remove some of the oil.  Repeat the soaking if necessary.  The fish maw is now ready and good to go, just cut them into slices of desired size.


Fish maw , soaked and cut into bite size
4 large/small handful dried scallops - soaked
1 whole chicken
6 shitake mushrooms, soaked
1/2 handful yoke chook/solomon’s seal
6 - 8 pieces wai san/chinese yam slices
1 tbsp kei chi/wolfberries
2/4 cup dried longan
3 slices fresh ginger
1 tsp shaoxing wine


Wash and soak the yoke chook, wai san, kei chi and longan in cool water for at least one hour.

Wash and cut up the chicken into 8 big pieces.  Put them and the ginger slices in the pressure cooker and put enough water to cover the chicken.  Bring it to the boil over medium heat, occasionally skimming off the foam that rises to the top.  When most of the scum is removed, cover with lid and pressurized for 30 - 45 minutes.

Release the pressure and remove the lid.  Strain the soup and skim away the fat. 

Clean the pressure cooker.

Put the chicken stock into the pressure cooker together with dried scallops, yoke chook, wai san, kei chi, longan and shitake mushrooms.  Cover and pressurized for 30 minutes.  Release the pressure before removing the cover.

Add in the fish maw and boil until it is soft and tender.

Add shaoxing wine and season with salt if necessary(i normally do not like to add salt to herbal soup)

Serve soup hot.


chopinandmysaucepan said...

Hey Lily!

This is a beautiful heart warming soup, especially in winter or if one is feeling a little under the weather. Reminds me that Overseas restaurant in KL used to do a version of this soup.

Is there a reason why you use a whole chicken as I find it quite oily. I tend to use chicken carcasses that is trimmed of fat and rinsed under hot water and find my soups are not short of flavour but less oily too.

Unknown said...


Chicken carcases are not sold in our supermarkets, so a whole chicken or chicken parts are my best choice. Skim the fat before using. I use a gravy skimmer.

Miss B @ Everybody Eats Well in Flanders said...

I love fish maw soup, but my mum only cooked it during special occasions such as CNY cos fish maw is quite expensive, but now I only get to eat it once every few years if I dun return to SG during CNY :(

This really bring back fond memories of my childhood days :)


Tuty said...

There is a type of fish maw that we had in Central Java. If I recall correctly, the name is "Hi Pio". Sold dried and whole. Its appearance is like blown up sausage casings tapered at each end.. My grandma would cut it up (using scissors before frying). I haven't seen those in decades. Your post certainly brings back memory ;-)

Anonymous said...

Damn i love this earty and delicius chinese soup....
btw, i like to stuffed fish maw with grounded meat too before making the soup...

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