The Fish Maw Soup at the Ben-Ben Restaurant in Ottawa
I have previously posted an Introduction to Fish Maw, an item which is not very familiar to many Westerners. The ingredient, which is prized in Chinese cuisine for its texture, rather than its almost non-existent taste, is frequently added to soup, often in combination with Crab. Fish Maw was indeed included in the dubiously named ‘Crab Meat and Fish Maw Soup’ at the Ben-Ben Restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown, but it was a very poor illustration of this dish in general, and just wasn’t very good.
The Ben-Ben Restaurant has been around since before I started visiting Ottawa regularly some twenty years ago. I passed it many times walking through Chinatown, but my first visit did not leave a good impression and turned out to be my last.
Ben-Ben advertises itself as serving Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine and I had decided to go there in order to sample their version of Kung Pao Chicken. After I had ordered a beer, however, I discovered to my surprise that this (almost ubiquitous) dish is not on the menu. I probably would not even have gone in had I known this beforehand but having already received my beer I decided to have something light before moving on elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the soup I was served, and pictured above, was not what I expected from the description and was not very good at all. The one good thing that could be said about it was that it was cheap (only CDN $6 for a sizeable bowl) and was very filling. Still, even if it had left me wanting something more, I would have gone somewhere else anyway.
Really, this soup should have been called ‘Chicken Stock with a WHOLE lot of egg white, a few tiny scraps of Fish Maw, and Fake Crab’.
The dearth of Fish Maw was disappointing enough, and, really, it might as well have not been there at all, but the use of that imitation, vaguely crab-flavored Pollock stuff and passing it off as Crab Meat was chintzy. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this was fraud, exactly, but I have had this happen elsewhere too and the practise is more than just a little irritating.
All in all, the soup here was basically a second-class Chicken stock with Egg-White. Bland, boring, and something of a rip-off.