Fish Maw Soup (Ko Ro), Foochow Style

This quintessential dish for folks in Sitiawan is much celebrated and loved and my husband is no exception. A friend from the same hometown posted a picture of the ko ro she cooked up in FB and I managed to get in contact with her to obtain the recipe. She gave me the ingredients and the necessary prep methods, but other than that I pretty much winged it. I didn’t have very high expectations of how it might turn out, meaning I don’t expect it to be in the same level as how they prepare it in restaurants. But I decided to give it a go anyway because it would really make hubster so happy.

Although currently they do sell fish maw here, being it’s so close to CNY and all, we got these (below) from Sitiawan itself, and they do look very different from the longish types Jusco is selling. They’re dried and hard. Which is why you have to prep them accordingly before going in to the dish. Fish maw is definitely not cheap but bear in mind you don’t need many pieces to make a huge portion. Ko ro is eaten on all the special occasions, Chinese New Year, weddings, birthdays and full-moon. It’s just a treat we look forward to. I made this dish over the Christmas period and instead of having one Sitiawan taste bud to critique my cooking, I had TWO….my SIL was here in M’sia for the long hols. Their verdict? Pretty damn close to the real thing. 🙂 🙂 🙂 And hubster is beaming from ear to ear knowing wifey can make his childhood dish. Now he can have it anytime without travelling back.

We also got a 1/2 dozen of these garlic chilli sauce (below), I think it’s much cheaper there and I also think you can’t make the dish with any other types of chilli sauce. They are bound together so expertly by cheap twines and rather convenient and sturdy to carry it around.

 Kampong Koh Chilli Sauce

Since this is rather an extensive post, I’ll get right to the methods of prep. First the fish maw;

Frying the fish maw will expand it even bigger
and softens quickly when soaked in water

Next is the hefty list of ingredients;

First row; chopped garlic and ginger, sliced shitakes and black fungus,
fresh bamboo shoot, sliced pork

Second row; sliced fish maw, garlic chilli sauce and tomato sauce, white pepper,
cornstarch and vinegar, beaten eggs

My MIL would’ve been proud. Wish I could have known this recipe sooner and made it for her. I will say this though and not in a condescending spirit, the dish is not much to look at, appearance-wise, as with many other dishes from Sitiawan…but it does not lack anywhere where bold tastes is concerned. And in a good way, that is the charm of the dish. It is exteriorly humble but it has such explosion of flavours that keeps people travelling back from wherever they are for more. I say, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.



Fish maw, about 3 pieces, prepped as instructed
Pork, sliced or minced
Shitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
Black fungus mushrooms, soaked and cut to smaller pieces
Ginger, chopped
Garlic, chopped
Fresh bamboo shoot, sliced thinly
1 whole bottle of Kampong Koh chilli sauce
1/2 bottle of tomato sauce
2 teaspoons vinegar
Fish stock (see above for prep)
2 eggs, beaten
White pepper
Salt (might not need it)
Sunflower oil
Coriander for garnish


1. In a deep wok, fry the garlic and ginger together till it’s fragrant. Add your pork. Stir fry for few mins. Add your bamboo shoots and mushrooms.
2. Then add the chilli sauce and tomato sauce. Stir-fry. Pour fish stock till you cover bout 4 inches above ingredients.
3. Let everything boil together for 5 mins. Add vinegar and pepper to taste. Add your prepared fish maw and let it simmer for another 15 mins. If you see the soup being sucked up too much by the fish maw, add more fish stock and also chilli and tomato sauce.

4. Taste and adjust anywhere where necessary. I did add a little salt.
5. Do an egg drop method with the beaten eggs. Swirl your wok and trickle the egg into wok slowly.
6. Lastly, mix cornstarch with water to make a slurry and thicken the soup to your liking.
7. Garnish with coriander before serving. This dish will taste even better the next day.


I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #15:
Auspicious Dishes for CNY (January 2012)
hosted by Wen
of Wen’s Delight

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13 Responses to “Fish Maw Soup (Ko Ro), Foochow Style”

  1. Hui Min says:

    Whenever my BIL travel to Sitiawan for work, he’ll surely ta pao this back to PJ. I just had some 2 weeks ago, soooo yummy, we love it! Terror la u Sharon Chieng can cook this dish now!

    • Sharon says:

      Haha, now my hubster wants it every b’days, cny and special seasons on top of mee sua. We travel back to buy the fish maw only. I actually got the recipe from Dorcas Yu. 🙂

  2. Thanks for introduce this new recipe, look at the ingredients, i know this must be super yummy..My mom just gave me some fried fish maw, i will spare some to cook this.YUM YUM!

  3. wendyywy says:

    Cooking a soup with tomato sauce and KgKoh chilli sauce, Wow! I love KgKoh chilli sauce with prawn crackers, hahaha, and dimsum!
    I never knew fish maw need to be fried before use. I thought they are already fried, so I just soak it, but they are still very oily leh.
    I rarely see fresh bamboo shoot, so you must have been pretty lucky to get some. Or is it really easy to find in PJ?

    • Sharon says:

      My friend, the one who gave me the recipe says to fry again before soaking and i found that frying them made them even bigger! 🙂 So maybe it was to soften it through the frying and then soaking in water….if you catch what i mean, because it was like really hard and dry. I just follow her instructions lah. You’re right, the bamboo shoots weren’t easy to find but ironically I was looking for canned ones at first and managed to come across a packet of 3 (fresh ones) in Cold storage. 🙂 My hubby IS from kampong koh and the guy who originated the chilli sauce lives just across him. Yes, kampong koh goes with anything and especially awesome on dim sum.

  4. Fish maw is my favourite too and this is interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  5. It’s very interesting that you fry fish first before making soup. This soup looks awesome! I need to check out your previous post… I quickly saw it and I can’t wait to read it. =P

  6. Veronica says:

    OMG! Tis is my childhood dish,nvr did I expect to see it again. Luv it..the chilli u used, a those my mum always buy.shes frm sitiawan!

    Lovely,cnt wait to try it..
    Thank you so much..

  7. Joseph Cyrus says:

    Thanks Sharon for sharing this recipe. I miss this dish lots. Only got to eat it during festivities when I travelled back to Kg.Koh Sitiawan to visit my Mom’s side of the family but that was 25 years ago. At least soon I’ll be able to savour it again now that I have this recipe I can cook it myself. Missing my moms foochow dishes so much. My mom taught me to cook very well in my growing years but not foochow dishes rather cantonese dishes. Thank you :), I LOVE THIS!

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