From Y3K Recipes Issue no.16 - Jan/Feb 2004.
Copyright of Y Three K Publisher. All rights reserved.
An elementary page on fish stomachs, fish maws and dried fish bladders
by Catherine Chia
In this issue, you can enjoy a delicious bonus with seafood as all varieties not only tastes good but share a rich nutritional beneficence. Among the Chinese community, the four most prestigious seafood luxuries are arranged according to the order of importance and value. Top-of the range comes abalones (pronounced as aba-loh-nees), next will be sea cucumbers followed by sharkfins and the final order, fish maws.
Most of us do have a wrong interpretation of what fish maws are. It is wrong to assumed it is the general stomach portion. This is not a true chart as it is the air bladder we should be looking at. The area is also known as the floating bladder as it is filled with arteries and blood capillaries.
Fishes are cold-blooded, water-inhabiting vertebrates with tails and fins, taking in oxygen through their gills. The contract and expand actions enable the fish to stay afloat in the waters whilst the tail and fins helps to propel and steer the body's movement when it glides along.
Evolution makes different species, an example, shark, which is not controlled by the air bladder but it has its own built-in huge oily liver. The body is streamlined shape which makes it ideal for moving fast through waters.
Fish stomach carries an excellent source of protein and a host of minerals, vitamins, iron and iodine. A substance, collagen, adds to the virtures as it is believed this complex structural beauty protein helps the skin to remain radiant and youthful. It has and will always be a legendary food to many wealthy people, especially those with lung illnesses, to consume loads of fish maws. The Chinese medicine-man perceived it to have the medicinal properties, to repair damaged tissues.
The smaller part of the fish stomach is known as fish bladder. This is easily available at the wet markets in both dried and deep-fried forms. Prices vary according to the grade sold. Generally after purchasing it, this is sun-dried, sliced and then deep-fried. It expands quickly like prawn crackers being immersed into hot oil.
Soak the fried maws in water, drain well and coat with some flour. Give this a quick rinse as it helps to remove any excess oil trapped in. You can cook it with other ingredients or stocks as the fish bladders soak up flavours easily.
The thicker pieces are known as fish maws as these come from the last of the ruminant's stomach. Being a delicacy, prices are high, comparable to good quality sea cucumbers and are available at dried marine product shops or the larger-scale herbal shops. Quality of fish maws are determined by the thickness, gender, categories of the fishes caught, depth of the ocean waters, as all these attribute to their goodness.
Steps taken for processing fish maws are generally not much different from sea cucumbers. They are soaked in either warm or cold water for two days. Water should be changed several times in-between and make sure all utensils used are totally free of oil as it can caused the fish maws to decay easily.
On the following day, heat up a big stainless steel pot with lots of water. Bring this to a rapid boil and turn off the heat. Immerse in the pre-soaked fish maws, let the water cool naturally. Remove fish maws and repeat this boiling hot and cooled water treatment several times till the fish maws are soft enough for the finger prick test. Do not boil them as it is not a good procedure.
Wash the soften fish maws well. Clean off the slimes, as you squash it, there is a sponge-like feel. Keep cleaned fish maws in a storage box filled with clean water. Place in the freezer's lower compartment and it keeps pretty well if instructions are followed closely.
Our previous articles on abalones and sea cucumbers are found in Issue 4 and Issue 10 respectively. Happy reading.
How to Soak Fish Maws (Fish Stomaches)
Rinse fish maws, place into a pot covered with a large amount of water. Bring water to a rapid boil. Cook for 30 minutes until softened. If it is still hard, cook for another 15 minutes.
Turn off heat, leave pot cover on for two hours. It will swell but fish maws must be submerged in sufficient water.
Drain and soak fish maws once more. Water must be above fish maws until softened.
Slice fish maws and cook. If not using them immediately, drain and keep in a box to be frozen. Thaw when needed. (Fish maws has good benefits for the lungs and the rich collagen gives skin good supplement when consumed frequently.)
Recipe: Majestic Fish Maw Steak
1 piece pre-treated fish maw
2 flower heads of broccoli
2 shallots (skinned)
3 pips garlic (skinned)
A few pieces curry leaves
1 dried chilli (cut into sections)
300 ml superior stock
Some oyster sauce
Some chicken granules
For thickening: Mix well
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp water
1. Cut broccoli into florets. Blanch it in boiling water, to which some oil and salt has been added in. Keep drained florets aside.
2. Heat up a little oil in wok. Saute shallots, garlic, dried chillies and curry leaves. Remove it and set aside.
3. Pour superior stock into wok, add in fish maw. Bring it to a boil over low heat.
4. Add in seasoning and thickening. Adjust taste and dish up. Decorate with no.(1) and (2).
A short lesson on processing dried fish baldders
Buy the pre-fried dried fish bladders. In a wok of warm oil (not boiling hot), refry it to expand it further. The colours should not changed to golden. If what you purchased are in the dried form, cut them into small pieces. Sundry it before deep-frying them in warm oil. This helps to expand the bladders a lot better.
Soak them in a bowl of clean water for approximately 10 minutes.
Remove above and coat it with some flour. This is to soak up excess oil trapped in.
Wash flour coated bladder pieces well. Change the murky waters several times till it is clear looking.
Squeeze it dry and this is ready for your cooking.
Recipe: Hokkien-Style Fish Bladder Soup
200g dried fish bladders
10 mushrooms (soaked, shredded)
Some shredded ginger
100g bamboo shoot (blanched)
100g lean pork (sliced)
Some tapioca flour
550 ml superior stock
Ingredients for pig's bone superior stock:
1 piece pig bone
10 pieces chicken feet
2 litres water
1. To prepare superior stock, boil pig bone and chicken feet in water over high heat for 2-3 hours till the soup turns milky. Add in salt and adjust taste.
2. Coat the lean pork slices with some tapioca powder, set aside.
3. Heat up wok, add in some oil. Stir fry the mushrooms till fragrant. Add in seasoning, bamboo shoots and dried fish bladders. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
4. Add in no.(2) and shredded ginger. Bring it to another boil and turn off the heat. Scoop it into a soup bowl, serve hot.
Tips: Turn off heat once the meat is cooked, this will ensure its texture is smooth.