Dried Fish Maws

These are also know as the Air-Bladder or Swim-Bladder in Fish. The primary function of this Air-Bladder is to act as a float to maintain its position in the water. In some fishes, the air bladder is an accessory to the gills, and in others it acts as a true lung, enabling them to breath. In some, the air bladder has some connection with the organ of hearing and in yet others, it has considerable vocal & sound producing properties. In the western world, it is also know as ISINGLASS, which is used in clarifying beverages, as an adhesive base in confectionary products, currencies, in Indian ink and for glass, pottery & leather.

Usage & Preparation

However, it’s more common usage is as an edible luxury & TCM medicinal products and thus commands premium prices, if the quality is prepared correctly. Normally the Air-Bladders are compressible sacs of several membraneous layers rich in collagen situated in the abdominal cavity. As soon as the fish is landed, the small portion of the fish belly is cut and the air bladder is pulled out. Blood stains, traces of oil and other extraneous materials like outer black membranes are removed by washing in cold water. Care should be taken to ensure that the Air-Bladder does not get contaminated with sand & soil.

Some bladders, like the Eel & Tubular should not be pressed hard so that the internal gas (a mixture of Oxygen & Nitrogen, with some traces of Carbon Dioxide) does not come out. If gas comes out, not only the bladder gets flattened but also it will give a bad look. Finally the Air-Bladders are dried in the sun by hanging them. When temperatures are high, it should be dried in shade under a fan or air-blower. The final product should be free from fungal, insect & mite infestation and have the characteristic odour with light yellow transparency.


There are close to 15 types of popular Fish Bladders, and for each species, there is a different style to prepare & process their Air-Bladders.

The earlier described method is more common for the Eel & Tubular types, whilst with others there are some variations.

Though we are always experimenting with new species of Air-Bladders, at this moment, the common types we deal in are listed below and some of their photos are illustrated on this page.

1. EEL:: E1-E6
2. TUBULAR:: T1-T6
3. GMALE:: GM1-GM6
5. CAKE:: C1-C6
6. LEAF:: L1-L6
7. BILI:: B1-B6
8. V-PERCH:: VP1-VP8