Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fish Maw - Yùh-Tóuh - 魚肚

Last week I went to Tai O 大澳 (Daaih-ou – means big-cove) with a group of friends. We stayed one night at the Tai O Heritage Hotel (TOHH) a newly renovated old police station turned into a hotel. If you have read my previous post on Tai O you already know that I often go to this former fishermen village. It was the first time I stayed overnight and furthermore in this exceptional place. 
If you want to know more about the history and story of the hotel click here >>>.

Although the purpose of going to Tai O was to try the new hotel and support this Social Enterprise it also gave us the opportunity to try local food.  We arrived early in the afternoon. On our way to TOHH – on Shek Tsai Po Street - we stopped at a stall run by elderly people selling homemade Hakka desserts. We bough some tea cakes (cha guor 茶粿) with eyebrow bean paste filling. They were very yummy. The dough was much smoother than mine ;).
After checking in we went back to the village. On the same street we stopped for a bowl of sweet silky bean curd (dauh-fuh-fâa - 豆腐花) and bought some local Chinese wanpee (wòhng-pèih -.黃皮).

Sweet silky bean curd
After visiting the Tai O Rural Committee Historic and Cultural Showroom we strolled further down the street and found a bakery selling a local dessert called sei-ngáahn-sôu 四眼酥 (means: four-eyes-flaky pastry). The square-shaped bun is filled with peanut, sesame and fermented red bean curd. They were only 4 buns left so we only had ¼ each, just enough to try. Very special taste!

Sei-ngáahn-sôu 四眼酥
For dinner we went to Lin Heung Restaurant {Lìhn Hèung Jáu-gâ - Lotus Fragrance Restaurant}. I often eat there when I am in Tai O. They have developed their own local (bún-deih – 本地) dishes and use local produce.
We had: steamed eggplants with dried silver fish, braised pork belly with shrimp paste, salted fish, fish soup (with bean curd and luffa/silk gourd), cuttlefish cake with deep-fried wanton, 2 vegetable stir-fries (one with squid, the other with shellfish), boiled shrimps, steamed fish and steamed chicken. Besides the soup that I did not like very much (small fish with too many bones) I liked all the other dishes and particularly the pork belly with shrimp paste. 

The following day we had lunch in a vegetarian restaurant in Nam Chung, a small village on the other side of Tai O – a 15-minute walk from Tai O Bus Terminus. The name of this place is “Daaih-ou Dûng-fông Siú-jî-yùhn Choi gún 大澳東方小祗園菜館 (means: Tai O -Orient- small peace garden- vegetable restaurant). It has no English name. The lady boss told us that if customers bring their own fish or seafood the chef can cook it for them. The good thing about being a large group is that you get to try more varieties of food. I particularly liked the - 五柳素魚- n’gh-láuh-sou-yùh (means five-willow-vegetarian-fish). This dish is made with mashed taro shaped into a fish and stuffed with diced Chinese mushrooms, carrots and water chestnuts. The “fish” is pan-fried and served piping hot. I liked the savoury sweetness and creamy texture of taro (…I was too slow to take a picture ;).

During our stay we went past the shrimp factory {勝利香蝦廠 - sing-leih heûng hâa-chóng (literally means victory - fragrant - shrimp-factory)} several times. In this place shrimp paste (hâa-jèung 蝦醬)and shrimp cakes (hâa-gôu 蝦糕) are made. You cannot miss it. It is on Shek Tsai Po Street (5 minutes before reaching TOHH). You will first notice the air filled with the aroma of shrimps then you will see large flat bamboo baskets filled with shrimp paste left to dry in the sun. I was lucky to be able to take a few photos before a big shower and before the factory staff had time to cover the baskets with a tarpaulin.

Shrimp paste let to dry in the sun in bamboo baskets

Shrimp paste flowing from blenders

Shrimp cakes
Besides shrimp paste and other sea products most of the dried fish shops in Tai O sell fish maw. Fish maw is the gas bladder (or swim bladder) of a fish.  It is called yùh-tóuh - 魚肚- in Cantonese (means fish- stomach) or fâa-gâau (花膠- flower-rubber). Fish maw is considered a food delicacy. Its price varies greatly and depends on the thickness and the size of the bladder, therefore the type of fish.  They are dried and sold either deep-fried (looks like a white colour sponge) or non-deep fried (very stiff yellowish texture). Fish maw is said to be rich in collagen.

Dried (non-deep fried) fish maw

Fish maw drying in the sun
Here is the dish made with fish maw that I learnt from my husband (family recipe):

Braised fish maw with spareribs and wheat gluten

  • 1 fish maw (cut in about 5 cm lengths)
  • 350 g spareribs
  • 4 pieces of fresh wheat gluten (mihn-gân)
  • 8 dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water (more if required)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • Salt and ground black pepper

  1. Soak fish maw in cold water overnight.
  2. The following day: In a large saucepan bring water to a boil. Stop the heat and add in the fish maw. Let the fish maw in until the water has cooled down and reached room temperature.
  3. Rinse the fish maw and slice it in big pieces.
  4. Wash and soak the dried mushrooms. Cut the stems off.
  5. Rinse the wheat gluten and slice it in big pieces.
  6. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add in the ribs; stir-fry until golden on all sides.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add fish maw, mushrooms and gluten pieces; stir-fry until golden; add water just as to cover slightly all the ingredients. Add soy sauce and simmer on medium heat until sauce has thickened.
  8. Serve hot.
I like the gelatine-like texture of fish maw.

Yùh-tóuh with pork belly and gluten
Thanks for stopping!  

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