As the weather transitions from the rainy spring into a warmer summer (and it has certainly taken its time this year), I always start craving a soup that is lighter in both flavour and consistency. My favourite: Chinese fish maw egg drop soup.
It’s worth noting that many restaurants will offer this soup with crab meat in it – which you can also add. Just be sure to use real crab meat rather than the fake crab meat that’s available in most grocery stores, as the chunky texture won’t be a good match for this soup.
Whenever I make soup, I tend to make a large pot that will serve four to five people comfortably. If you need more or less, adjust the below ingredient proportions accordingly.
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 3 to 4 cups of dried fish maw, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup of dried shitake or Chinese mushrooms (or 5 fresh shitake mushrooms), chopped
- 3 dried figs (used whole)
- 1/3 cup of lotus seeds
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon of corn starch
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, or to taste
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
- 2 to 3 cups of crab meat, shredded or finely chopped OR
- 6 oz. of chicken, finely chopped
- 1/2 a bamboo shoot, finely sliced in strips
Before you start the soup, soak the dried ingredients in bowls of water. The fish maw should be soaked for a few hours, or overnight. Because it’s very porous, the fish maw will tend to float to the top – to help with this, I try to weigh it down by putting a deep plate over the bowl to push the fish maw down in the water. The mushrooms, lotus seeds, and figs can soak for about 15-20 minutes. (The image above shows the fish maw fully reconstituted, and the mushrooms, lotus seeds, and figs in their dried state.)
Once your dried ingredients are ready, chop up the mushrooms into medium to fine slices or chunks. If you’re adding bamboo shoots, chop them up into fine strips. Gently take it out the fish maw (it rips easily) and cut it into large, coarse chunks or strips. It’s up to you how large you’d like the pieces. I like to keep the pieces relatively large (about 3-4 inches in length and 2 inches in width) so the pieces maintain their chunky texture in the soup.
The lotus seeds will need to be desprouted. Peel the two halves open and remove the small black-green sprout inside each seed if there is one.
Next, take out your chicken stock and pour it into a large pot and bring it to a boil on medium to high heat. Once the stock is boiling, bring it down to a simmer on low to medium heat. Add the mushrooms, desprouted lotus seeds, and figs. Simmer for 25-35 minutes (or 15-20 minutes with a pressure cooker). If you’re adding the bamboo shoots, add your finely sliced bamboo shoots to the pot now. The soup should be a darker colour, and if you taste it, slightly sweet from the figs with a hint of flavour from the mushrooms, lotus seeds, and if you added them, bamboo shoots.
To thicken the soup, add one scoop of your soup from the pot to a measuring cup or mug and add the corn starch, while slowly stirring. Make sure you work out any clumps of corn starch so the consistency is very smooth. The mixture will thicken – pour this into the larger pot and stir gently.
Now, it’s time to add the fish maw and turn the heat down to low. The fish maw is rather gelatinous, so on high heat, it will actually dissolve into the soup. You don’t want this to happen, so by adding it last and keeping it on low heat, you will be able avoid this. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. If you’d like to add crab meat or shredded chicken, you can add the crab meat or chicken at the same time as the fish maw.
Finally, beat your egg with a fork or whisk in a small bowl. What you will want to do is very slowly drizzle your beaten egg into your pot of soup while stirring the soup in one direction very slowly. It’s important that you do this very slowly. Slow pour. Slow stir. The egg will cook as soon as it comes in contact with the soup and form beautiful fluffy strings.
Add your salt and pepper to taste. Strain out the figs.
You’re ready to serve!