Fish Maw Soup is normally served during special occasion such as Chinese New Year. Some of the ingredients (such as fish maw and scallops) are considered as delicacies, and high-grade ones can be expensive.
I loved this savoury soup since I was a child. Now that I put some thought into it, I realise I don’t only love the unique taste of the sea product; it reminds me of my favourite festival. I also like the fact that it’s more humane and affordable than other delicacies such as shark’s fin soup
Now that I’m an adult and took over the role to prepare meals for Chinese New Year, I begin to appreciate this soup a lot more. Here’s some information about fish maw and how to make this delicious soup easily:
Fish maw is dried swim bladders of large fishes. A quick search on Internet described it as almost tasteless which I disagree. I’ve bought a few grades of fish maw from Kuantan and Kota Kinabalu (both famed for seafood produce) and noticed that higher quality ones smell and tastes significantly better.
Despite being seemingly an inferior fish product to many, fish maw is exalted and considered as a Chinese delicacy. Besides, it is a good source of collagen used in food industry to create water-resistant glue (source). It’s spongy texture allows it to absorb the flavours of other ingredients.
Soaking fish maw
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: Minimum 2 hours
Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Chicken (bones, breast & thigh) x 750 g
Water x 2 L
Red dates x 30 g (about 10 pieces)
Scallop x 20 g (about two large pieces)
Dried cuttlefish x 35 g (one, palm-sized)
Napa cabbage x 600 g (one, medium-sized)
Fish maw x 30 g
Salt x 2 tsp
Chicken stock powder (optional) x 1 tsp
Pot/ thermal cooker
TO PREPARE INGREDIENTS (2o minutes)
- Clean cabbage and remove its leaves. We like to soak it in our homemade fruits and vegetable wash for 15 minutes.
- Rinse scallop, cuttlefish and red dates. Slice red dates and cuttlefish.
- Blanch chicken: Put chicken in a big steel bowl. Heat 1.5 L water in a kettle. Pour hot water over chicken. Leave for 5 minutes and remove water.
- Soak fish maw until it softens. It should take about 30 minutes. Cut into small pieces.
- Put chicken, scallop, cuttlefish and red dates into stock pot/ thermal cooker pot.
- Boil hot water in a kettle and add into the pot. Cover and bring to boil.
- Put in cabbages. It’s okay to cover the soup with cabbage as it’ll soften when it’s cooked.
- If using regular pot, cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. If using thermal cooker, simmer for 30 minutes and then transfer to thermal cooker.
- When ready to serve, add fish maw and boil for another 10 minutes.
- Serve hot.
- Make sure the fish maw is already dried and processed. I’ve purchase fresh ones at Kota Kinabalu need to be fried until they are puffed up.
- As there is so much to prepare during Chinese New Year, I really appreciate the simplicity of this soup which uses few ingredients and most of them has long shelf life. Even napa cabbage can be kept in the fridge for days. I like to buy good quality fish maw whenever I visit coastal towns which produces seafood product and keep it for Chinese New Year.
- Napa cabbage adds sweetness to the soup. I do not chop the cabbage and merely break bigger ones into half. That is because when cooking for long hours, small pieces of cabbage can turn mushy and won’t look appetising.
- If I could, I will not use chicken stock powder in my daily meal. However, a little bit of chicken stock undeniably enhance the ‘umami’ flavour significantly. Just like making imitation sharkfin soup, a teaspoon of it add a lot of taste and make a lot of people happy.
What is your family signature soup for Chinese New Year?