Image courtesy of OpenSeas.
The history and prominence of fish maw amongst Asian consumers.
“When I was eight I used to go out with my Dad who worked for a fishing company. Back then fishing companies didn’t understand the value of fish maw and they pretty much gave it away. There’s been a massive shift in knowledge and understanding in New Zealand about the properties of fish maw. Today Ling Maw, a type of fish maw, is New Zealand Coastal Seafoods’ flagship product and is highly sought-after for it’s essential nutrients and health benefits.” – NZCS CEO, Peter Win.
What is fish maw?
Fish maw is the commercial term for the dried air bladders of large fish and for the Chinese it’s considered to be one of the four traditional delicacies of the sea alongside abalone, sea cucumber and shark’s fin due to its high nutritional content. The Chinese have been serving fish maw for hundreds of years with stories about chefs preparing fish maw dishes for emperors in grand banquets at celebrations for the Han Dynasty family and important visiting dignitaries. Many Chinese people believe fish maw represents fortune and health, so today, fish maw dishes are popular for special occasions like Chinese New Year, birthdays and weddings.
Highly valued for the health benefits it’s believed to provide, fish maw is reported to contain rich proteins and nutrients, be high in good collagen, ionic acid and unsaturated fatty acid. It’s also believed to be effective in healing weak lungs, replenishing kidneys’ and boosting stamina. Many Chinese people believe that by drinking fish maw soup and eating fish maw dishes they can improve their skin, prevent ageing and brighten their skin tone.
Fish maw has no fishy taste, instead, it absorbs the flavours of other ingredients it is cooked with.
What makes Ling Maw sought after?
“New Zealand seafood products command a premium because of the beautiful pristine environment they come from,” says Aldo Miccio, Executive Director.
Ling is a large white-fleshy eel-like ocean fish found in New Zealand’s deep, cool waters and the surrounding sub-Antarctic international deep sea. New Zealand’s sustainable fishing quota management means a small number of ling fish are able to be caught. Their scarcity has resulted in higher demand and driven the price up over time.
Awareness of ling maw is growing in pockets around Asia. “Currently ling maw is one of the lesser-known maw’s and that’s something NZCS is changing,” says Peter.
Processing is the key to producing the best Ling Maw
“Our premium dry ling maw is 100% hand-harvested and sourced from wild-caught ling fish around the southern half of the South Island. It’s then processed using the latest food processing technology and equipment.”
Over the years, NZCS has developed a unique production process that involves cold-curing the product versus heating it. Most of the ling maw produced by NZCS is frozen at sea within 6 hours of being caught. “NZCS Ling Maw is the driest maw product on the market with a water content under 4%,” says Peter. “That’s significant because it not only means our product can last longer but also maintains its flavour and compositional integrity for cooking.”
“Our goal at NZCS is to share the sought-after flavours of fish maw, specifically ling maw, with Asian customers,” says Peter. “To date about 80 – 90% of our product is dried ling maw and we’re exporting to China and Asian markets in Australia. Our plan is to expand into other Asian countries as we develop ready-to-eat products like soups, ling maw jelly, collagen powder and ling maw in broth.”