Fish Maw Napa Cabbage Soup



This will be a simple post targeted at new house chef. It is a post that was queued in my pipeline for at least 2 months since Chinese New Year. Napa cabbage soup can be a presentable soup to entertain your house guest or a soup to go with your daily meals and that very much depends on the type of side ingredients to prepare the soup. The ingredients used are  with full flexibility and its preparation usually include long hours of meat and seafood items in order to get the seafood and meat broth for the vegetable dish.


I love the dish so are my kids. We are especially fond of the fish maw cabbage soup  prepared by my wife’s god mother. She is in her 8o’s and she cooked this dish in most major festivals. Her grand children are looking forward to her cooking of the soup. There is no fixed and fast rule of the ingredients used in her preparation. She prepared the soup based on what she can buy in the market.. Therefore, the soup dish is full of flexibilities.


One of the main ingredients in this dish is fish maw. Chinese used fish maws in their cooking rather extensively. It is a costly ingredient and a presentable gift to friends or relatives during important festivals. In essence, fish maw is the gas bladder of a fish that enable the fish to swim in the water.


As per Wikipedia:

The swim bladder, gas bladder, fish maw or air bladder is an internal gas-filled organ that contributes to the ability of a fish to control its buoyancy, and thus to stay at the current water depth without having to waste energy in swimming. The swim bladder is also of use as a stabilizing agent because in the upright position the center of mass is below the center of volume due to the dorsal position of the swim bladder. Another function of the swim bladder is the use as a resonating chamber to produce or receive sound. In some Asian cultures, the swim bladders of certain large fishes are considered a food delicacy. In China they are known as fish maw, 花膠/鱼鳔, and are served in soups or stews. Swim bladders are also used in the food industry as a source of collagen. They can be made into a strong, water-resistant glue, or used to make isinglass for the clarification of beer. (source:

Another main ingredient is napa cabbage. It is a very common Chinese household vegetables. Per Wikipedia:

Napa or Nappa cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis), also known as celery cabbage, is a type of Chinese cabbage originating near the Beijing region of China, and is widely used in East Asian cuisine. In much of the world, this is the vegetable referred to as “Chinese cabbage”. Nappa cabbage is lighter in color than other Chinese cabbages such as bok choy, which is also sometimes called Chinese cabbage. In the United Kingdom, this vegetable is known as “Chinese Leaf”, in New Zealand, as “Wong Bok” or “Won bok”, and in Australia as “wombok”. The name “nappa” comes from colloquial and regional Japanese, where nappa (菜っ葉?) refers to the leaves of any vegetable, especially when used as food.[1] The Japanese name for this specific variety of cabbage is hakusai (白菜?), lit. “white vegetable”, a Sino-Japanese reading of the Chinese name. (Source:




As this is a savoury dish, no detail quantity will be listed. Feel free to adjust the quantity and types of the ingredients to suit your taste buds.


  • Some napa cabbage
  • Few cloves of garlic
  • Few slices of gingers (to avoid formation of gas)
  • Some red carrots
  • Some pork ribs
  • Some chicken wings
  • Some lean meat
  • Some fish balls
  • Some meat balls


  • Some canned mushrooms
  • Some fish maws
  • Some dried scallops
  • Some winter mushrooms soaked in water




  • Blanch the pork ribs, lean meat and chicken wings in hot boiling water for 2-3 minutes. The main purpose of this step is to clean off any impurities in the meat item before any actual boiling of meat items. It is consider as done when the colour of the meat have turned to beige in colour. Throw away the water.


  • Fill the pot with some water, put in the follow ingredients (pork ribs, lean meat, garlics, ginger, winter mushrooms, carrots, dried scallops, canned mushrooms and some white stems of the napa cabbage.) These are the ingredients that can withstand long hours of boiling and those ingredients that can be cooked easily such as ( chicken wings, fish balls, meat balls and the leafy part of napa cabbage will only be added at the later stage). Bring to boil under high heat. Once boil, lower the heat to medium and boil for at least 25-30 minutes until the meat is soft and the broth start to turn a bit cloudy. The result of the boiling will be a mixture of meat and vegetable broth.


  • Add in the chicken wings, followed by fish balls, meat balls, fish maw and leafy part of the napa cabbage. Bring to boil until the napa cabbage is soft.  Once boiled, add some seasoning of your choice (i use light soya sauce, salt and white pepper)


  • Note that before adding the fish maw, you may want to blanch the fish maw with some hot water to clean off some of the oils in the fish maw. Some fish maw may took longer to cook than the others but usually, as a general guideline, fish maw shall only be added towards the end of the cooking process.

  • Best served hot as a soup dish in a standard Chinese household meal.



A common household soup and I like to prepare this to entertain my guest.. Adding fish maws is generally a good choice. Of course you can add in baby abalone to make it even more presentable. New house chefs, if you never try this soup, do try.  For experience house chefs, I am sure you can concur with me the flexibility of this soup dish. Do let me know if this soup dish cooked by me looks appetising to your taste buds.


Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.


For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 10th February 2014)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit this blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE .  


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2 thoughts on “Fish Maw Napa Cabbage Soup

  1. Pingback: RECIPE INDEX ( Updated on 21 March 2014) | GUAI SHU SHU

  2. Pingback: RECIPE INDEX ( Updated on 13 March 2015) | GUAI SHU SHU

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