The Complete Guide to Fish Maw: Types and Cooking Techniques

In fishing villages across the world, dried seafood is a timeless tradition that brings the fresh taste of the sea to your table all year round. And among all the dried seafood options out there, fish maw stands out as a truly unique delicacy.

Just thinking about my visits to my seaside relatives and the excitement of trying their latest seafood haul brings a smile to my face. The rich flavor of fish maw transported me back to carefree beach vacations and added an extra layer of joy to my trips.

Ready to taste the difference? Join me on a journey of discovery as I reveal the secrets of fish maw and show you how to soak and prepare it for any dish. Get ready for a flavor explosion unlike anything you’ve experienced before!

What Is Fish Maw

Fish maw is a type of dried seafood made from fish swim bladders, mostly from sturgeon. It adds a strong, yummy taste to dishes like soups and stir-fries, especially when stir-fried with pork. People also use it to make drinks like beer and wine clearer, and to make jellies and paper.

To use it, you have to soak it for several hours or overnight, depending on its size. You can then make jiggly dishes like aspics, jellies, or make broths and stocks clearer by adding it.

But, overfishing of sturgeon is a problem, so you may want to use alternatives like agar or carrageenan instead. But if you’re looking for something new, fish maw is a tasty ingredient that gives bold flavor to any dish.

Types of fish maw

Yellow flower maw

Yellow flower maw
  • Yellow flower maw is also known as saltwater perch gum or small yellow flower.
  • This type of fish maw typically comes in a  tube-like shape, where the swim bladder is left uncut and its original form remains intact.
  • Yellow flower maw is primarily produced in Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and other parts of Southeast Asia in brackish waters.
  • This yellow flower maw has a delicious, yet subtle fishy taste. It is also renowned for its excellent elasticity and reasonable cost.
  • Yellow flower maw is perfect for making soups or stews, thus it’s regularly chosen from the variety of fish maws on the market today.

Codfish maw

Codfish maw
  • Codfish maw is made from the swim bladders of cod fish.
  • With dozens of species to choose from, codfish are primarily sourced in Northern Europe, Greenland and Iceland. There are also the Pacific and New Zealand versions too.
  • The environments in which different varieties of cod fish are bred can make a huge difference to the cost and quality of their maw, resulting in wildly fluctuating prices. Hence why it is essential to be aware of the variety used when purchasing cod fish maw.

Golden dragon fish maw

Golden Dragon Fish Maw
  • The exquisite Golden Dragon Fish Maw is crafted from the swim bladders of large yellow croakers, an oceanic fish species.
  • This fish maw boasts abundant nutrition and undoubtedly catches eye with its generous size and captivating golden hue. It’s easy to understand why it has earned itself a unique name- The Golden Dragon Fish Maw!

North Sea fish maw

North Sea fish maw
  • North Sea fish maw male belly is a robustly flavored type of fish maw.
  • Restaurants commonly use it as an ingredient in their dishes due to its low cost compared to red slate male belly.

Big-eared red slate

Big-eared red slate
  • Big-eared red slate is a delicacy crafted from the swim bladders of one of the ocean’s most prized fish, red slate.
  • This special species inhabits deep and unpolluted waters, making its belly fat what many consider to be the highest quality fish maw available on today’s market.

White flower maw

White flower maw,
  • White flower maw, also referred to as “white nai” and “white lotus,” is a type of fish maw created from the swim bladders of an esteemed little species called light-colored yellow goby (also known as Kushi’s yellow goby).
  • Because it is seen as a treasured tonic, this kind of fish maw holds great value.
  • White flower maw only ranks second behind slate, house glue, and spider glue amongst all other fish maws species.
  • This fish maw has become an iconic delicacy due to its unrivaled excellence in quality.

Fish glue of slate

Small Bearded Fish Glue of Slate
  • Small Bearded Fish Glue of Slate, or otherwise known as simply Fish Glue of Slate, is a valuable and scarce type of fish maw made from the swim bladders of yellow lipped fishes.
  • This delicacy can be quite pricey; with some pieces reaching into hundreds-of-thousands or even millions per pound for larger sizes!
  • It’s sought after by collectors who have an eye for the extraordinary.

Spider maw

Spider maw
  • Spider maw, which is also known as small scales Boardman’s stone head fish, can be found in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
  • This type of fish maw made from wild big redfish swim bladders is scarce in the first two countries and highly-priced there.
  • But it is much more accessible on the market when sourced from Vietnam.

Formosan red beak

Formosan red beak
  • Formosan red beak is revered as the best of all four varieties of red beak slabs, with gum that has been aged for fifteen or more years considered to have the highest level of quality.
  • With its impressive efficacy and flavor, Formosan red beak is ideal for women who are pregnant or menstruating, those in poor health, and individuals recovering from surgery.

How To Choose Fish Maw

Fish maw is a sought-after ingredient with many different qualities to consider. When looking for the best quality, select a fish maw that appears transparent in color and has no black blood stains. These are indicators of freshness and good swelling properties.

Yellow fish maw tends to be thick, large-size pieces that provide superior swell compared to thin material from smaller fishes – making them well worth the extra price tag!

For the perfect piece of fish maw, look for a flat and complete shape with neat edges. Size isn’t everything – if it’s too large, sandwiched or moist, these can all be signs of inferior quality when cooked and presented.

To get that top-notch taste experience, you want your fish maw to be dry yet transparent when exposed to light; there should also be no visible blood veins in sight! The brighter its color indicates better quality. Avoid those pieces with centers appearing white – known as ‘flower heart fish maw’ which are poor in quality.

How to Prepare Fish Maw

Soaking fish maw prior to cooking is an essential step and can be carried out in a variety of ways, like steaming or boiling. However, I find that the most straightforward and efficient route is to simply use water soaking.

Ready your plate by spreading the gum (fish glue) flat. Boil water, then submerge the entire dish of gum (fish glue).
fish maw
Mark as done
Sprinkle some ginger on the gum (fish glue). Add more ginger to combat the fishy taste.
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If you prefer to diminish the fishy flavor of your seafood dish, adding yellow wine can help. Approximately 1/2 bowl of this wine added to each gum is enough, though it is not an absolute necessity! This technique is commonly utilized in Cantonese cuisine restaurants and helps reduce the pungent odor present when cooking certain types of seafood.
Mark as done
Yellow gum require a high-heat steam for 10 minutes. The gum will shrink and its color may change, or it can become soft to the touch when done. If the gum is particularly large and thick (1 to 10 heads) then you must first wash/soak before steaming for 15 – 30 minutes until it shrinks, changes in color or becomes slightly soft on contact with chopsticks. For certain pieces that are very thick, use chopsticks to pierce through them as an indicator that they’re cooked properly.
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After steaming the fish, quickly submerge it in icy water to maintain its freshness, lock-in flavor, and shrink the glue.
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After the gum has cooled, add more cold water and add a few slices of lemon to enhance the flavor. Place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours (for thicker gums, 48) and change out the water once or twice during that time to remove any fishy taste.
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This is steamed for 10 minutes and soaked in the fridge for a day. This allows the fish maw to be very elastic and smooth. Don’t be alarmed if you take your gum from the fridge and it’s stiff – this is totally normal.
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Finally, ensure that you thoroughly scrape and clean both sides of the gum with dust particles. Then use a thin blade to remove a layer of grease on its surface; only this way will it be properly washed off, reducing any foul odors significantly.
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After soaking and thoroughly cleaning the gum, cut it into small pieces before proceeding to the next cooking steps.
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How to Make Fish Maw Casserole


  • Dried fish maw
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Dried squid
  • Dried scallops
  • Pork (or pancetta)
  • Ginger and garlic
  • Dried peppers (optional)
  • Salt
  • Green onions
  • Chicken essence
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Rice wine
  • White pepper


Begin by soaking the shiitake mushrooms, dried squid, and dried scallops in water until softened. Afterwards, cut them into strips. Then place the fish bladders in a bowl of water to rehydrate for later use. Next prepare your pork – you can either shred it or dice it before marinating with cooking wine and soy sauce.
Mark as done
Heat oil in a pan and stir-fry the pork with ginger and garlic until it is browned. If you’re cooking with pancetta, sizzle it in a skillet for several minutes to render the fat.
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Add the dried seafood and continue to stir-fry until fragrant.
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Add the fish maw to the pan and stir-fry for a while. If you want to add more flavor, you can add a few dried peppers or a small red pepper.
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Season the dish with salt, chicken essence, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and rice wine.
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Stir-fry the ingredients until they are well combined and then add a bowl of water.
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Sprinkle some white pepper on top, cover the pan with a lid, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a medium temperature, and let it simmer until the fish bladders are completely tenderized by absorbing all of the flavors from your soup.
Mark as done
Before serving, sprinkle some green onions on top and simmer for another minute.
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Fish maw is packed with essential nutrients, including protein and fat. Its composition includes a high concentration of advanced proteins like sticky colloids and polysaccharides.

Many people believe that fish maw is a powerful natural remedy with beneficial properties that can be used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions:

  • Sores, swelling and pain, nameless swelling and poison, skin ruptures, and malignant tumors.
  • Back pain, rheumatic back pain, stomach disease, tuberculosis, whooping cough
  • Haemotypsis, aplastic anemia, tracheitis, maternal hemorrhage and postpartum abdominal pain.
  • Kidney stones, stomach and duodenal ulcers, rheumatic heart disease, and gynecological and menstrual disorders.

Fish maw can be utilized as a gelatin pill capsule and adhesive. It is processed into high viscosity fish-based gel or yellowish glue, which consists of up to 95% fish belly!


Which part of the fish is considered to be Fish Maw?

Fish maw, also known as the swim bladder of a fish, is an internal organ situated in the abdomen. This thin and flexible membrane-based cavity aids the aquatic creature to control its buoyancy and move around various depths. Additionally, certain species use it for producing sound waves which help them communicate with each other or attract potential mates.

How to store fish maw

To keep your dried fish maw at its best, store it in a ceramic or wooden container with an absorbent material and some cloves of garlic. You can also seal the beloved delicacy up tightly in plastic bags before placing them straight into the freezer for longer-term storage – just remember to enjoy using fresh batches as often as possible. Old fish maw can lose its flavour and quality over time!

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