Fish maw

Introduction

Fish maw is made from swim bladder or air bladder. The swim bladder of big sea fish is sun-dried to become fish maw product. Fish maw is a kind of precious traditional Chinese ingredients. It is also one of the 4 valuable seafood members namely: abalone, sea cucumber, shark’s fin and fish maw.
The types of sun-dried or processed fish maws vary according to the size and stiffness of the swim bladders. Basically, they can be divided into fish maw king, premium fish maw, Grass Seabass’s fish maw and fried fish maw, in which, fish maw king and premium fish maw have the best quality and are the most valuable, whereas the prices of Grass Seabass’s fish maw and fried fish maw are cheaper and are therefore more popular.
Fish maw is also graded by sex - male fish maw and female fish maw, which are made from bladders of male and female fish respectively. Male bladder (male fish maw) has thicker body and is soft and smooth, not easily to be dissolved in the mouth while female bladder has thinner body and smooth and tender mouth-feel.
Fish maw contains rich proteins and nutrients such as phosphor and calcium. It nourishes ‘yin’, replenishes kidney and boosts stamina; it is effective in healing weak lung and kidney, anemia, etc. It is suitable for consumption by any age group of either gender and is a kind of therapeutic food. The most important of all is that fish maw contains high viscosity gel protein and mucopolysaccharide which are important to lady’s skincare and capable of preserving fine complexion and invigorating blood circulation. Furthermore, fish maw does not contain cholesterol and therefore it is a very valuable health enhancing ingredient suitable for long time consumption.
Usually, fish maw is added into soup or stew soup to give the soup better mouth-feel and increase stickiness. It is also being simmered or braised to make family dishes or delicacies.

Selection
Selection for superb quality
The body of fish maw should be dry, thick and golden yellow in colour. It is glittering and translucent when exposed under light. The quality of fish maw is not good if shades appear on the body and it will deliver bad smell when soaked. Inferior fish maw has white stripes and rough surface. White stripes occur if the fish maw is not completely dried and water content is stored up during the drying process. This kind of fish maw cannot be stored for long because it is easy to get moldy.
Fish maw king and premium fish maw are differentiated by male or female. It is recommended to pick male fish maw as its texture is stiff, the body is thick and the meat is smooth. It is not easily to get melted after prolonged cooking and the meat is firm and chewy, showing superior quality.


Selection for cooking
Fish maw can be used as ingredient for different soups or dishes but care must be taken in picking the right fish maw in order not to affect its mouth-feel and cause wastage, since different fish maw requires different cooking methods.
DelicacySelect fish maw king and premium fish maw, Their bodies are thick so they can be sliced to make fish maw steak or cook together with Jinhua ham.
Nourishing soupNourishing soup usually takes 3-4 hours cooking time. So, select fish maw king and premium fish maw because of their thick bodies. You may choose thick and big size Grass Seabass’s fish maw instead.
Ordinary soupOrdinary soup usually takes 2-3 hours cooking time. Select thick and big size Grass Seabass’s fish maw. Use thinner or smaller size Grass Seabass’s fish maw or fried fish maw to prepare soups that do not require long cooking time.
Hotpot ingredientSelect thinner or smaller size Grass Seabass’s fish maw or fried fish maw.
Home dishesSelect Grass Seabass’s fish maw, simmer or braise.

Effect
Fish maw contains rich proteins, phosphor and calcium. It nourishes ‘yin’, replenishes kidney and boosts stamina; it is effective in healing weak lung and kidney, anemia, etc. It also contains high viscosity gel protein, mucopolysaccharide and multivitamin. It is a valuable nourishing food for any age group of either gender.
WomenMoisturize skin, improve wrinkle and dryness condition, preserve blood and beautify complexion, prevent bone degeneration
Pregnant women (during pregnancy)Help healthy growth of fetus
Pregnant women (after giving birth)Help speedy recovery after giving birth, effective for wound healing when taking fish maw after operation.
MenBoost metabolism, nourish the body to preserve vital energy, replenish kidney to boost stamina. Especially suitable for middle-aged
ChildrenNourish trachea and lung, soothe allergy due to change of weather
ElderlyNourish muscle and bone; it improves arthralgia, loss of articular collagen and weak and sore waist and knee
Wound patientHelp restore vital energy, relieve tiredness, wound healing after operation , remove blood stasis and clear swelling


Classification

Fish maw king
The best quality of all. Its body is thick and stiff. In fact, any kind of fish maw that is big in size can be included in this type. It is divided into male and female, produced mainly from Indian Ocean and along the coast of Africa and taken from huso, sturgeon or cod fish, of which, cod fish is the chief origin. Therefore, fish maw king is also called cod fish maw.

Premium fish maw
It is also called “Long abdomen” because it has a long and thin body with 2 tentacle-like organs. Its stiffness and gel content are not as good as fish maw king. It is also divided in to male and female, mainly produced from Central and South America.

Fish maw tube
It is also called “Grass Seabass’s fish maw because its shape resembles a coin bag when it is not dissected. Fish maw tube is not divided by sex, mainly produced from Central Africa and Panama, Central America and mostly made from grass bass. It is usually used by housewives to make soups or dishes because it is more economical.
 
Fried fish maw
It is made from frying large eel’s maw in boiled oil. It is usually used by housewives to make soups or dishes because of cheaper prices.


Assessment
Fake fish maw is common because of its limited supply.
Imitated by other seafoodSquid, shark’s skin, head portion of fin or whale’s skin are commonly used to imitate fish maw. Unethical businessmen soak them in hydrogen peroxide and sulphur, and then bake to produce the fake.
Substandard product to be disguised as top grade productCounterfeit premium fish maw is quite common. Unethical businessmen collect substandard, low value and broken fish maw and pour them into a special mold, gradually increase the thickness of the layers and add pressure. The finished product will get similar thickness of real fish maw, as well as the imitated sun-dried pucker effect
There have been cases of using pig’s skin and chemical plastic to imitate fish maw by unethical businessmen. It is therefore strongly advised to buy fish maw from reputable shops. Here are some tips for you to distinguish the fakes:
ColourReal fish maw has golden yellow colour whereas fake fish maw has light and whitish yellow unnatural colour.
GrainReal fish maw has natural grain whereas fake fish maw does not have obvious and orderly grain.
ScentReal fish maw has light sea water smell whereas fake fish maw has none and may carry chemical or plastic smell.


Q&A
1.How to store fish maw?
Store in cool and shaded area or refrigerated.
2.What preparation work is needed before cooking fish maw (such as making soups or home-dishes)?
Most of the fish maws (except fried fish maw) require presoaking before cooking and the soaking method are generally the same. However, different types of fish maw require different soaking time.
Premium fish maw
  1. Soak fish maw in fresh water for 18-24 hours* until it becomes soft and its gel content gets softened. Refresh water from time to time and rinse with cool water each time to eliminate its fishy smell.
  2. Put ginger and shallot into a pot of fresh water and boil. Turn off the heat after the water is boiled.
  3. Put the soaked fish maw into the pot and tightly covered with the lid (baking)*. Wait until the water cools down.
  4. Take out the fish maw and rinse with clean water; it’s now ready for cooking.
*The soaking time and the number of baking action depend on the size and thickness of the fish maw.
Fish maw tubes
  1. Soak fish maw in fresh water for 6-18 hours* until it becomes soft and its gel content gets softened. Refresh water from time to time and rinse with cool water each time to eliminate its fishy smell.
  2. Put ginger and shallot into a pot of fresh water and boil. Turn off the heat after the water is boiled.
  3. Put the soaked fish maw into the pot and tightly covered with the lid (baking)*. Wait until the water cools down.
  4. Take out the fish maw and rinse with clean water; it’s now ready for cooking.
*The soaking time and the number of baking action depend on the size and thickness of the fish maw.
Fried fish mawSoak fish maw in fresh water for about 10 minutes until it becomes soft. Rinse with clean water and it’s ready for cooking.
3.What else should be paid attention during soaking of fish maw?
The utensil used must be oil-free and does not contain soda. To avoid sticking of fish maw to the bottom of the cooking pot due to its heavy gel content, a bamboo sheet can be laid on the inner bottom of the pot.
4.How to handle soaked fish maw which is not totally consumed?
Store the remaining fish maw in the refrigerator at below 0℃. Thaw each time before serving.
5.Why fish maw becomes thin and gel lacked after cooking?
Fish maw contains rich gel content which can be easily get melted if the cooking time is too long and the heat is too strong. We should pay attention to the control of soaking and cooking time and the heat temperatures. Avoid using hot water for soaking or cooking with strong heat in order to shorten the processing time; this will lead to loss of fish maw’s gel content.
6.Is that older fish maw or fish maw having prolonged exposure to sunshine has better quality?
There is a saying that the older is the fish maw, the better is the quality. In fact, the length of storage does not affect the therapeutic value of fish maw. However, if the fish maw has been stored for a long time and exposed to long time sunshine, its texture will become stiffer and its golden yellow colour turns darker, that makes it look more appealing to customer. Moreover, its completely dry body can give bigger expandability after soaking.