How to Prepare Dried Fish Maw for Cooking

3 min read


By Wing Joo Loong Team

Key Takeaways

  • Fish maw or fish tube is the organ responsible for fish buoyancy in water. This natural beauty tonic is an excellent source of collagen with low fat content.
  • Most fish maws available in the market are dried. Read on for a simple tutorial on rehydrating dried fish maw.

Named one of the four Chinese treasures of the sea, fish maw - also known as hua jiao (花胶) or fish tube - has one of the starring roles in Chinese banquet classics such as the 'Buddha Jump over the wall' and 'pencai'.

A fish tube is the fish air bladder, the organ responsible for maintaining fish buoyancy in water. While many fishes possess swim bladders, fish maws are often sourced from larger fishes like sturgeons, cod or croakers.

Most fish maws available in the market are dried, giving them a golden yellow hue while extending their shelf life. Once properly rehydrated, it expands to reveal its chewy, gelatinous texture, perfect for soups, braised dishes or even desserts. Read on to learn its benefits and how to properly prepare this ingredient.

Benefits of fish maw / hua jiao


Fish maw is an excellent source of collagen with low fat content, earning its reputation as a natural beauty tonic suitable for all ages and genders.

Besides being rich in proteins, [1] fish maw offers a spectrum of benefits:

  • Nourishes Yin
  • Improves skin complexion
  • Improves weak lungs and kidneys
  • Promotes healthy bones and protects cartilage
  • Aids in wound recovery
  • Slows down the effects of ageing
  • Promotes blood circulation

If you are ready to give it a try, here is our simple step-by-step guide on how to prepare your dried fish maw.

How to rehydrate dried fish maw


  • Dried fish maws or fish tubes 
  • 2 slices of ginger 
  • 2 stalks of spring onions (cut into 2-inch strips)

Steps to prepare dried fish maw

Dried fish maws: soak for 12~18hrs
Dried fish tubes: soak for 6~12hrs

  • Soak dried fish maws or fish tubes in a pot of fresh water until they soften. Cover the pot.
  • During soaking, change the water every 1-2 hours and rinse with cool water to prevent any fishy smell.
  • After soaking is done, heat up a pot of fresh water. Add 2 slices of ginger and 2 stalks of spring onions (cut into 2-inch strips) into the pot.

    Bring it to a boil before turning off the heat, then add the soaked fish maws or fish tubes and cover the pot. Wait until the water cools down before taking them out.
  • Rinse them with clean water before cooking.

Additional tips on preparing and storing fish tubes

In addition to the above tutorial, keep these tips in mind to reduce risk of contamination in the process:

  • Maintain a clean, oil-free pot during preparation
  • Rinse the fish maws thoroughly after handling

If you do not plan on cooking them immediately:

  • Wrap the softened fish tubes in a food-grade ziplock bag and store them in the freezer 
  • Thaw the frozen fish tubes overnight in the fridge before cooking 
  • Avoid repeated rehydration and storage to preserve texture

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The above steps are to serve as a guide only. Please do not follow the above steps for fried fish maw preparation.

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