A Chinese Delicacy: How to Prepare Dried Fish Maw (or Fish Bladder)

A Chinese Delicacy: How to Prepare Dried Fish Maw (or Fish Bladder)

A Chinese Delicacy: How to Prepare Dried Fish Maw (or Fish Bladder)

Have you ever walked by those Chinese herbal or dried food shops and wondered what those fairly large beige bubble things were?  I certainly did growing up and just always found it foreign until I was introduced to it in foods, soups, and stews and told how expensive they were (my parents’ Chinese way of telling me to eat it). 

Fish maw is the fish bladder (air bubble) of the fish.  Not the fish stomach, which is a common misnomer.  

I finally had enough curiosity to try to make them myself and got an hour crash course from the vendor in Hong Kong who basically walked me step by step (after I bought a bunch from them), having the vegetable vendor verify (after buying ingredients for the soup), and all the nearby old ladies share their various fish maw recipes.  What a way to immerse myself into Chinese cooking!

Check out how to prepare dried fish maw in the video and a selection of fish maw recipes.

There are many sizes, makes, cuts, and types of fish maw available!  So explore them all!  

Preparing Fish Maw (or Fish Bladder)

Preparing fish maw for use in soups, stews, or Chinese dishes can take up to 3 days depending on the size and thickness of the fish maw.  In the video, I’m using thicker fish maw, so it took 2 full days.  In some soups, the fish maw are much smaller, so you can just boil as you would like any meats.

Day -2:  Blanch your fish maw in boiling water for 15 minutes.  I used a ceramic pot so I could just change the water in the pot rather than switch it around.  The Chinese are very particular about their ceramic pots versus metal based pots because of the potential metallic flavours absorbed by the food.  Once you have boiled it you can let it sit overnight.

Day -1:  Change out the water and replace the fish maw pot with room temperature water in the morning.  Then put in the fridge until evening (12 hours) and replace the water again for overnight (12 hours).   

Day 0:  Pour out the water and rinse the fish maw.  It should still be pretty rubbery and thick.  Cut into desired pieces for your dish.  You can even save them in portions in the freezer for up to 6 months. Enjoy!

 

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Turkey Chinese Congee (Porridge)

Turkey Chinese Congee (Porridge)

Turkey Chinese Congee (Porridge)

Soup Name: Turkey Chinese Congee

Traditional Chinese Name: 火雞粥 (huǒ jī zhōu)

Introduction: What to do with a 19 pound turkey for a family of 6? Well, after carving it, you have more meat leftover than carcass and I’ve taken half of the carcass for congee and the other half for soup. Don’t forget to keep the skin as it’s roasted and delicious. The base is just turkey and congee rice, but I also decided to add roasted peanuts as part of the base. You can also add dried scallops, dried tofu skin, dried octopus as well. The garnishes are also very vast…. today I went with both century preserved duck eggs and preserved salted duck eggs, as well as preserved vegetables and green onions as there was no salt added to the congee.

What Ingredients are required?

1 half of a turkey carcass (bones)2 cups of turkey meat
2 cups of round congee rice
3/4 of a large pot of water
fresh peeled peanuts
salt to taste

How do I prepare it?

  1. Boil your water first
  2. In a shallow pan, add a teaspoon of oil and pan fry the peanuts on medium heat until they are a golden brown (this makes the congee more fragrant)
  3. When you water boils, add in the congee rice and boil on high heat for 10 minutes, stirring the bottom ensuring it doesn’t stick
  4. Add in the leftover turkey and peanuts and boil on high for another 5 minutes before reducing heat to low and cover (you can use a chopstick to prop it open so it doesn’t boil over) for one hour, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot
  5. Serve, top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Any benefits?

  • This soup is naturally flavored (slightly salty from the turkey meat and bones)
  • Really,  no additives needed (salt or sugar)
  • Great as a meal, for kids and the whole family
  • This is a great congee base for adding other ingredients
  • You can save this in the freezer for up to one month or in the fridge for consumption for up to 3 three (but reboil it before eating)

Any precautions?

  • Be cautious of tiny bones if serving to children (although it’s unlikely if you have kept the turkey carcass together)
  • There are peanuts in this congee, so take care if you or someone is allergic to nuts

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A Do-It-Yourself Japanese Shabu Shabu Experience

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A Do-It-Yourself Japanese Shabu Shabu Experience

Check out this 2 part homemade broth and Japanese-styled shabu shabu experience!

Serves: Party of 4-6

Prep Time:  30 mins

Cook Time:  3 hours and 15 mins

Eat Time:  Endless

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Check out the video on how to create an awesome and delicious Japanese-styled shabu shabu in the comfort of your home with a chicken broth base from scratch.

Shabu shabu literally means “swish swish” in English and it is a pre-loaded hotpot with all your favourite ingredients such as white radish, carrots, leeks, a variety of leafy greens, a mix of Japanese mushrooms, firm (or soft tofu), and a selection of cute Japanese fish cakes.  Perfect for the whole family and ideal for colder weather!

Serve with your choice of meats, seafood, more greens, fish balls, noodles or rice and you’ve got yourself a family favourite!

Here are some examples of other soups using a chicken soup base:

The chicken soup base is a great soup to start with for so many dishes and soups!  Here are a few to get you started!

This is a great and very simple chicken soup that I use as a base.  My kids love drinking this as plain chicken soup.  

    This simple chicken soup is a great base for noodles, rice soup, or macaroni.  Don’t forget to strain the ingredients and you can even add them as part of the meal!

      This soup is using the base chicken soup recipe that is perfect for double-boiling.  For example, the only additional ingredient added here is the ginseng on top of the soup base.

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        Chinese Winter Melon and Parma Ham Stew

        Chinese Winter Melon and Parma Ham Stew

        Chinese Winter Melon and Parma Ham Stew

        Soup Name

        Chinese Winter melon and Ham Stew

        Traditional Chinese Name:  

         

        For more videos, visit us on YouTube.

        I was inspired to make this soup one day when I walked by the wet mart and saw the vendor carving up this giant fresh winter melon and I thought, “Gosh, that’s be amazing to use!”.  I didn’t want to make a soup that day, but really wanted something savory, tasty, and soft.  So another way to make winter melon is to stew it!  And normally, you can pair winter melon with Chinese ham, but I went for a western spin and decided to make a fusion version with Parma Ham instead (which is equally salty).

        What’s involved?

        Prep time: 15 mins

        Cook time: 45 mins

        Total time: 1 hour

        Serves: 4-5 people

        Ingredients

        • 1 slice of fresh winter melon (about 2-3 inches thick is good)
        • 1 bowl of smaller dried Chinese mushrooms
        • 1 bowl of fresh, cored gingko bilobas
        • 1 pack of Parma Ham
        • 9-10 cloves of fresh garlic
        • A sprinkling of preserved Chinese vegetables

        Cooking Instructions

        1. Start by soaking the Chinese mushrooms in room temperature water for about an hour to soften them
        2. I like to use giant butcher’s knives for chopping most things because the weight and leverage just lessens the work!  Chop your winter melon into large-sized pieces, removing the seeds and keeping the skin.  This will help keep in place as it softens in your stew and not disintegrate into a million pieces and become blah…
        3. The go about removing the ends of the mushrooms.  A sharp knife or kitchen scissors will do the job!
        4. In your soup pot, with a bit of oil and on medium heat, pan fry the garlic cloves until they are brown (and smell yummy!), then you toss in the mushroom and pan fry for about 3 minutes.
        5. Drop in the gingko bilobas and also fry for 3 minutes
        6. Then you extract the Parma Ham and just place it on top of the other ingredients and stir slightly
        7. Add in 2 cups of boiling water and a sprinkling of Chinese preserved vegetables and mix it altogether
        8. Cover and boil for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while so it doesn’t stick, or that you still have enough liquid in the pot

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        Fresh Crab Congee

        Fresh Crab Congee

        Fresh Crab Congee

        Soup Name

        Fresh Crab Congee

        Traditional Chinese Name:  

        蟹粥 (xiè zhōu)

         

        This crab congee is super easy to make! The key ingredient really is just the crab.  It’s a warming, traditional comfort food that can also be luxurious and delicious. If you get nice female crabs, the roe comes all out into the soup and really adds a special flavour.

        What’s involved?

        Prep time: 15 mins

        Cook time: 40 mins

        Total time: 55 mins

        Serves: 6 bowls

        Ingredients

        • 2 cups of white rice

        • 10 cups of water (to start)

        • 6-7 dried scallops or conpoys

        • 7-8 slices of fresh chicken strips

        • 2 fresh female crabs, prepared and quartered

        • 1 tablespoon of preserved Chinese vegetables

        • fresh spring onions

        Cooking Instructions

        1. Prepare the crab (see my post on fresh crab on preparation), cut into quarters and set aside
        2. Prepare the fresh chicken by cutting in thin strips
        3. Begin to boil your water and throw in the rice using high heat
        4. Stir every once in awhile to ensure that the congee doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot
        5. When the water boils, add in chicken strips, dried scallops (or conpoys)
        6. When the water boils again, throw in the prepared crab
        7. Continue to stir the congee occasionally and add one cup of boiling water as it thickens. How thin or thick is a personal preference, so you can add less or more water as you desire.
        8. Reduce heat to a medium simmer, cover the pot and let it continue to boil for another 30 minutes. Revisit the pot to stir it, ensuring you stir it right from the bottom.
        9. Add in the preserved Chinese vegetables and mix again.
        10. Let it boil for another 5 minutes.
        11. Serve and top with your favourite toppings such as fresh parsley, green onions, chives or any of the delicious preserved Chinese goodies like garlic, radish, baby cucumbers or pork floss

        Here’s how I made it!

        To start, you’ll need: 2 fresh live crabs, fresh chicken slices, ginger slices, fresh green onions, dried scallops, and preserved Chinese vegetables (as shown).

        I’ve made this many times trying different types of crab.  The best and most flavourful crabs ideal for congee are smaller crabs that really aren’t as expensive (at around $70 HKD per crab). While they are smaller, the seem to seep a crab-y and seafood, ocean flavour into the congee, including the roe and cream of the crab into the soup.  I’ve also tried more expensive crab (at around $170 HKD per crab) which had more meat, but somehow, it was more just crab by itself and the congee by itself – the two never really blended.  But definitely explore yourself and see what works best for you and your family.

        You can see my other post on how to prepare fresh crab. A few tips:

        • Using a big knife, chop off the sharp edges of the legs, shell, claws and any other sharp parts
        • Using also the back side of a big knife, create cracks in the legs and hard places (so that you can easily eat it out of the congee)
        • Do not throw away any of the eggs, roe, or cream (found at the head primarily) – the Chinese call these the best parts!
        • Buy female crabs

        Slice the fresh chicken into thin strips. How much you use is really up to you. Since I like my protein, I tend to add more protein everywhere I go! The dried scallops can also be rinsed under warm water ahead of use. And take a few slices of fresh ginger. I tend to keep the pieces quite large so that I can isolate them in the congee and not scoop them out. I also don’t use a lot as I am not a fan of ginger and neither are the children, but you do need a little bit to eliminate any fishy taste in the congee, although I find the crab doesn’t really emit this. 

        Start boiling your congee water (the bigger the pot, the better!) it’s easier to add more hot water than let it reduce to the appropriate amount. I’ll throw in the rice right away and wait until the water boils. Once it boils, I will add in the chicken, scallops, and ginger.

          Once that boils, then feel free to add in the prepared crab. Be sure to stir this pretty often to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.  This will also help keep the heat even throughout the pot as it might be quite crowded with all the stuff inside.

          Boil this on medium heat for another 30 minutes.  The rice will thicken and you can add a cup of boiling water (or really hot water from the nice Chinese hot water boilers) to thin it out.  How thick you’d like your soup is completely up to personal preference. I like my congee a bit thinner, with more liquid, but this is up to you.

          When it’s almost done (with about another 5 minutes until serving), throw in a handful of preserved Chinese vegetables.  I use a very specific one that comes in a ceramic pot and is called “dong choy”.  It’s very salty, so use with caution. I don’t add any additional salt after that.

            When ready, serve and enjoy! I also top with chives or parsley or fresh green onions.  There’s also some other cool Chinese condiments that go with congee, such as preserved baby cucumbers, radish, onions, shallots, dried pork floss, or vinegar soaked garlic.

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              Basic Pork Congee

              Basic Pork Congee

              Basic Pork Congee

              Soup Name: Basic Pork Congee (or aka Skinny Pork Congee)

              Traditional Chinese Name:  瘦肉粥 (shòu ròu zhōu)

              Congee is one of the many comfort foods available within the Chinese cuisine. Nothing is simpler than pork congee and using this recipe as a base, you can actually go pretty far when loading it up with additions or adding different flavours. I use this especially when the children are sick and it’s a great first foods on top of baby cereal and smashed up vegetables.

              What’s involved?

              Prep time: 5 mins

              Cook time: 25 mins

              Total time: 30 mins

              Serves: 8 bowls

              Ingredients

              • 1/2 pound of lean, fresh pork, largely cubed
              • 6 pieces of dried scallops
              • 2 cups of long-grain rice
              • 2 L of water
              • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
              • Whatever toppings you want

              The ingredients for the soup are: Dried scallops, skinny boneless pork cuts, long-grained rice, salt and water.  To start, I usually start with really lean cuts of pork from the butcher and then cut them into large chunks that don’t shrivel up too small in the congee, but are small enough that the flavours come out. You can blanch the pork if you want, but being this thin of a cut, I usually don’t.  I will however, salt the pork with about half a teaspoon of salt.

              Begin to boil your water with cleaned rice. You can throw in the dried soaked scallops at this time, but the meat usually goes into the water when it boils.

              Once the water boils, add in the fresh pork and let it boil on high for about 5 minutes and then reduce to a medium boil for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the bottom doesn’t stick and making sure it doesn’t boil over. At this time, I will transport the pot into my thermal cooker to let it bake some more. I also tend to add more water than normal because I like my congee watery!

               

              The Kiddie Version

              For the child with the stomach flu, this is what she got. Plain congee with some Japanese rice flavouring. She lapped it up, 3 bowls in a row. This is also why the extra water helps – get more liquid into her system.

              Here’s my upgraded, “souped up”, adult version of the congee. It’s really a fabulous comfort food in that you can add anything like:

               

              • salted peanuts
              • pickled vegetables (like radishes, cucumbers)
              • kimchi
              • salted fish (Chinese-styled)
              • preserved black bean fish (Chinese-styled)
              • preserved and spicy tofu (foo-yu)
              • pork floss
              • egg
              • green onions or parsley
              • and the list goes on and on if you get creative enough

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