A cheaper, friendlier alternative is fish maw, which is the part of the fish that fills with air and allows it to remain buoyant. After being fried, it can be soaked to be softened and used in soups in place of shark fin. (Another alternative is to use fried pork skin.)
Traditionally at New Years, my mom will make a sea cucumber soup, but this year she elected to go with a fish maw and crab soup. (Thank goodness too, I HATE sea cucumbers!)
This recipe is courtesy of Leann Chin from Food Network. It is very close to my mom's recipe, except where it says to add chicken, replace it with crab. My mom also does not add mushrooms or chives to the soup.
Fish maw and crab soup simmering on the stove.
- 2 ounces processed fish maw (hot sandblasted, see Cook's Note)
- 8 thin slices fresh ginger
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 8 medium dry black mushrooms, rehydrated for 20 minutes, destemmed, and cut into thin strips
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 egg whites, beaten with salt and white pepper
- 1 cup julienned yellow chives
- 1 cup shredded cooked chicken (or 1 cup of cooked crab)
- Salt and white pepper
1. Soak fish maw in warm water for 2 hours.
2. Place fish maw in a 4-quart saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 4 ginger slices and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes on medium low heat and then drain fish in colander, rinsing with cold water. Squeeze out any excess water.
3. Cut the maw into 1/2 inch diced pieces, discarding any hard pieces.
4. Heat the chicken broth and the remaining 4 ginger slices in a large pot until boiling. Add the fish maw and the black mushrooms. Heat to boiling and then turn to medium low heat and simmer 10 minutes.
5. While soup is simmering, combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Remove the 4 slices of ginger from soup. Turn heat to high and stir in the cornstarch mixture.
6. When soup returns to a rapid boil, stir in egg white mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly with a fork until egg mixture forms threads. Taste soup at this time to see if salt and white pepper are needed. Add the shredded chicken (or crab) and yellow chives; stir to mix. Turn off heat and serve.
Cook's Note: Fish maw comes dried and processed. If you purchase the dried fish maw that is unprocessed and hard as plastic, you need to deep fry in oil at 375 degrees F for a few seconds until they puff up. Then you can proceed with the soaking process in the recipe.