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.
If you want to make something special on Chinese New Year but would want to keep to a budget, look no further than this recipe. I use the most affordable fish maw (higher grade ones can cost up to RM 400+ for a piece). It still taste delicious with sweetness from napa cabbage and red dates, on top of umami flavour from scallops and cuttlefish. On top of that, I use a thermal cooker: it saves time (30 minutes to cooking on the stove) and gives you an extra stove to work.
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. More information on fish maw
- Pot/ thermal cooker/ slow cooker
Fish Maw Soup - 8 Ingredients
- 750 g Chicken (carcass, breast & thigh)
- 1.5 L (6 cups) Water
- 10 pcs (30 g) Red dates
- 3 pcs (30 g) Scallops
- 1 pcs (35 g) Dried cuttlefish
- 1 pcs (600 g) Napa cabbage
- 30 g Fish maw, soaked
- Salt to taste (Suggestion: 2 tsp)
- Chicken stock powder (Suggestion: 1 tsp) - optional
- Step 1 PREP: Clean cabbage and remove its leaves. Rinse scallop, cuttlefish and red dates. Slice red dates and cuttlefish. Soak fish maw until it softens then chop into small pieces.
- Step 2 BLANCH CHICKEN: Blanch chicken: Place chicken in a big steel bowl. Heat 1.5 L water in a kettle. Pour hot water over chicken. Leave for 5 minutes, discard water and rinse chicken.
- Step 3 BOIL: Place chicken, scallops, 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. Then add in cabbage. 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.
- Step 4 SERVE: When ready to serve, add fish maw and boil for another 10 minutes. Season with salt. Dish out into individual bowls and serve hot.
Bring to a boil 1.5 L water + 10 red dates + 3 scallops + 1 ps dried cuttlefish + 600 g chopped cabbage. Simmer for 3 hours. Add 30 g soaked fish maw 10 minutes before serving. Season with salt.
- Too much cabbage? You may think there’s too much cabbage. But the amount is important to lend sweetness to the soup. Don’t worry, it’s okay to cover the soup with cabbage as cabbage will soften and shrinks when it’s cooked.
- Different grades of fish maw For this recipe, I’m using the lowest grade for fish maw which only cost RM 30 for 100 gram. More information on fish maw
- Making cooking easier with long-shelf life ingredients 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. For an even simpler version without napa cabbage, try Fish Maw Herbal Soup
- Tear napa cabbage into large pieces Instead of chopping napa cabbage, sometimes I merely break bigger leaves into half. That is because when cooking for long hours, small pieces of cabbage can turn mushy and won’t look appetising.
- Chicken stock powder is optional I normally don’t use chicken stock powder in my daily meal. However, when cooking for certain people who used to eating out and prefer their food very savoury, I’ll normally add some chicken stock. Just a little bit of it undeniably enhance the ‘umami’ flavour significantly and makes those whose tongue is used eating out very happy. Also as my late father and grandmother like using chicken stock powder, for Chinese New Year I normally do try to recreate those taste my family is used to.
- Stock up on good quality dried seafood produce I like to buy good quality fish maw whenever I visit coastal towns which produces seafood product and keep it for Chinese New Year. When I went to Kuantan and Kota Kinabalu, I bought heaps of fish maw, dried shrimps, ikan bilis and scallops.