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!
Fish maw is usually associated with a chicken soup base, but it is just as ideal with pork. This soup is not naturally that flavorful (as fish maw itself has no taste and neither does dried lily bulb). The seabed coconut gives it a slightly sweet tinge, but you can consider adding some vegetables (like corn or carrots) to further enhance the flavor. Salt to taste as necessary – although it’s still refreshing without the salt.
The soup itself is slightly cooling due to the seabed coconut and fresh lily bulbs, but not overly. It’s also got an amazing amount of collagen and can eat like a meal if you add more vegetables.
With the added tangerine peel, this soup is ideal for getting rid of coughs. Seabed coconuts are great for nourishing and healing the lungs as with tangerine peel.
Fish stomach does not have a strong taste and is usually combined with another meat, using the other meat (chicken or pork) as the base flavour for the broth. It is not uncommon to occasionally combine different meats in soups together for added flavour and nutritional benefits.
The fish stomach makes for a very rich broth that tastes delicious when combined with ginger and the natural sweetness of dried longan. A great winter or fall soup.