Fish Maw

Fish Maw 花膠/鱼鳔 is an internal gas-filled organ found in most fish.  It is commonly used in Chinese cooking and in Chinese soups and some consider fish maw to be a luxury item.  When cooked, fish maw takes on the flavour of the surrounding ingredients.  It is an excellent source of collagen, when purchased dried, it comes as a hard, solid, hollow, translucent tube (pictures) and must be soaked to soften before use.  When it is cooked, it has a soft, slippery texture.

For gourmet preparation; fish maw need to be wash and soak for at least 4 hours (or overnight) in room temperature water, or until it is soft and malleable.   While purchasing your dried fish maw, some people prefer lighter-coloured fish maw, the colour has no bearing on the quality of the product.  Fish maw prices vary widely depending on the size and type of fish.

There are various benefits in fish maw consumption; being an excellent source of collagen.  Many Chinese people believe that drinking fish maw soup and eating fish maw will improve their skin and, for pregnant women, the skin of their infant/children.  Some also believe fish maw can help with fertility and will drink and eat fish maw when attempting to become pregnant. Hence, it is also thought to help with blood circulation.

Fish Maw plays the role of a texture ingredient like the sea cucumber in Chinese food, fish maw is actually the air bladder of large fish, the function of which is to regulate water and oxygen flow so that the fish can ascend or descend in the water. The price of fish maw is far from cheap and it's one of the luxury ingredients in Chinese cuisine.   Like a lot of ingredients in Chinese culinary traditions, the fish maw is also regarded as a nourishing tonic that helps blood circulation.

Fish maw is also called swim bladder that is found in all fish except sharks and rays.  The maw in itself is a texture ingredient only, and is used with other strongly flavoured ingredients to make it interesting. It usually requires only a couple of minutes cooking to absorb the flavours in the pot.  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.  Its main function is to receive and expel huge qualities of water and/or oxygen so that fish can ascend and descend in the water. This makes the bladder very strong and elastic. Fish maw is mostly used in the preparation of thick soup. It is effective in relieving coughs and beneficial for the general health.

Fish maws are sold dried in two forms – deep fried or non-deep dried. Deep fried fish maws are puffy, light and look like a yellow sponge or pork rind. Whereas the non-deep dried fish maw is in stiff, cream-colored sheets. Most recipes that require fish maw will tell you how to prepare it and they may vary. Some requires you to simmer it while others simply soak it using cold water. Basically, all fish maw should be deep-fried before anything else. If you bought the non-deep fried one, deep fry it in moderately hot oil until it puffs up and become white. Then soak it until pliable, rinse and scrub clean. Squeeze out the excess water after the soak to remove the oil. Repeat the soaking and squeezing process until you are comfortable with the level of its greasiness. Lastly, cut them into slices of desired size and they are good to go. If the fish maw smells fishy, you may want to deep fry it again so that it becomes fluffy and free from odor again. Alternatively, boil for 5 to 10 minutes with a stalk of scallion (spring onion) and a slice of ginger.  Like the sea cucumber, it takes on the flavor of surrounding ingredients it is cooked with like a sponge. Fish maw is mostly used in soups and the delicious fish maw soup is often served in the Chinese households during their New Year Celebration.