Another day, another dinner, another discussion about whether or not fish ‘float.’
My friend Dana and I had dinner at South Ocean Seafood, a large restaurant at Alderbridge and Garden City that’s popular with families. It was great to see so many multi-generational groups, with cousins making faces at one another across the table while their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents decided what to order.
For our meal, we started with the fish maw and corn soup, then had the Peking Duck Two Ways, a dish that over the past 347 days has become an all-time favourite for both of us. The menu actually offered it three ways (soup, crispy duck skin, and lettuce wraps), but because we’d already chosen a soup, we asked for just the latter two.
First came the fish maw and corn soup; this was only my second time having fish maw, and Dana’s first.
While we were looking at it on the menu, I tried to describe it as “the part of the fish that makes it float….” then I realized fish don’t necessarily want to float…..they just don’t want to sink. Confused, I instead offered that “maybe it’s the part of the fish that makes it puff up?” then realized fish don’t really puff, unless it’s a blowfish. Defeated, I gave up and googled it – enough of this blind leading the blind.
According to Wikipedia, I wasn’t too far off with my first guess. Fish maw is:
The 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.
Here’s a diagram – thanks science!
I didn’t even come close to guessing the sound bit, but the maw does contribute to a fish staying buoyant, rather than falling into the inky black depths of the ocean. But what does it taste like? Well, not like much really, because it’s sort of like tofu; it tends to absorb the flavours of whatever it’s cooked with, and so its real charm lies in its texture. It’s chewy and sponge-y, like a more airy and delicate version of frozen tofu. I found it very easy to like, and thought it tasted wonderful with the sweet corn in the soup.
Here’s a picture of dried fish maw, which are sold this way then reconstituted for cooking.
Unfortunately, our first course of the Peking Duck – crispy duck skin pancakes with hoisin sauce, green onion, and cucumber – was a miss. The chopped up duck skin on top of prawn crackers was more greasy than it was crispy, and it had layers of fat and meat still stuck to it, rather than just the skin on its own.
The excess grease from the skin seeped onto the prawn crackers, making them rather soggy.
The thin wheat pancakes that came with it were excellent, however.
The second course – the duck lettuce wraps – was a hit. The chopped duck was savoury, salty, and tender, sauteed with earthy mushrooms and green onions. Add to that the crispiness of the fresh iceberg, the sweetness of the hoisin, and you’ve got yourself one darn fine wrap.
We also discovered the duck mixture is just as tasty when wrapped in the leftover pancakes from the first course, so don’t let your server take the leftovers away!
Though the first course was a let-down, these lettuce wraps were some of the best I’ve had.
We also ordered fried sticky rice with preserved sausage, which was rather bland. We loved the chewiness of the rice, but it seemed pointless to have to scoop some up with a piece of meat just to get some flavour.
Finally, to put some green in our guts, we had stir-fried gai lan, which was simple and tasty.
South Ocean Seafood Restaurant wasn’t exactly stellar, but at least I can now officially add bladder to my list of ‘Things Eaten in Richmond” Phew! I wonder what I shall add to it today….?
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available
In total, the meal cost $64.10, and could have easily fed 4 people