Sunday, June 5, 2011

Squid with Fish Paste Soup ('You Yu Geng')

For the uninitiated, squid with fish paste would probably make you wanna run from them thar hills. But this is a Taiwanese staple, so I have nothing but love for and fond memories of this delicious stuff.

'You Yu Geng' (that's the mandarin pronunciation - I won't even try to phoneticize the Taiwanese pronunciation), is basically julienned squid wrapped in a fish paste, and it's the star in the traditional slightly sweet & sour soup called 'Geng,' loaded with assorted veggies like sliced shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, wood ear fungus, seasoned with black vinegar, and then thickened with a cornstarch slurry. There's another iteration using pork instead of squid ('Rou Geng'), which can be substituted for the squid version in this recipe. If you don't have a Chinese market in your neck of the woods that stocks this ingredient, then I can't help you. I know you can make fish paste from scratch, but I'm not one who does. So there. 

2 quarts of water (16 cups)
4 tbsp. chicken base (Totole brand chicken powder is the best)
1/3 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 lb. of imitation crab
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. sugar
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 pkg of vacuum-sealed bamboo shoots (use canned if you can't get these, but these taste better)
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water & then sliced
1 cup of dried, shredded wood ear fungus, soaked in hot water to soften
1 pkg (around 3/4 lb.) of squid with fish paste
*Bonito shavings (I didn't add this to the recipe this time, but it's a traditional flavoring that my mom uses)
1/3 cup black vinegar
1/4 cup cornstarch

1. For the Stock: Pour 2 quarts of water to a stock pot and add chicken powder, cilantro, imitation carb, white pepper, sesame oil, and sugar. Set aside 1/2 cup of the stock to make a cornstarch slurry later on. Bring stock up to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 30-40 minutes. 

2. Add sliced shiitake mushrooms, wood ear fungus, julienned bamboo and carrots to the stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes. At this time, remove the imitation crab from the stock (it's done it's job flavoring the soup, so out it goes - you can still eat it if you like, but I take it out of the soup because it's not a traditional ingredient for the final product). 

3. Add the squid+fish paste to the soup and simmer over low heat about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup of black vinegar. 

4. Add 1/4 cup of cornstarch to the reserved 1/2 cup of soup stock and mix well. Turn heat up on the soup and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch slurry and boil for about 2-3 minutes or until soup is thickened. 

5. Serve with fresh cilantro and additional white pepper, as needed. 

Dried Shiitakes.

Vacuum-sealed bamboo shoots. These taste a lot closer to fresh bamboo shoots than the canned variety.

Julienne the bamboo shoots.

Dried shredded wood ear (black) fungus. 

Reconstitute the shiitakes in hot water (may take about 30 minutes).

Soak wood ear fungus in hot water to soften. In the meantime, 
slice the rehydrated shiitakes.

Julienne one medium carrot.

Use 1/2 of a 1-lb. package of imitation crab for the soup base.

The holy trinity for my Chinese soup bases: sesame oil, 
Totole chicken powder, and white pepper.

Water, chicken powder, cilantro, imitation crab meat, white pepper, 
sesame oil & sugar. 

After stock has cooked 30-40 minutes, add julienned carrots, bamboo, shiitakes & wood ear fungus. Simmer for another 20 minutes.

Add squid with fish paste 'dumplings', and simmer on low heat another 10 minutes. 

Chinese black vinegar.

Add 1/3 cup of black vinegar to the soup.

Bring soup back up to a boil, then stir in cornstarch slurry. 
Cook for a few minutes until thickened.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and extra white pepper & sesame oil, according to taste.


  1. Gorgeous! I'm crazy about this soup. Living in Taiwan, it's relatively abundant at a wide range of local vendor's stalls. I happened across your page searching for the word "geng." Funny to see the name in English. As an American of fully European ancestry married to a Chinese Taiwanese, it's been an interesting exercise in culinary adaptation. Now that I've acclimated I often feel wistful when I consider that it's likely that the bulk of western foreigners like me would balk at many of the foods I've grown to love. When I finally get a chance to go back home to the states with my hubby in tow, I'll make a point of trying out this recipe of yours and serving it up to my father and stepmother. If they don't like it, I know I'll eat it! Cheers :D

  2. I am definitely trying this recipe! It's a bummer I couldn't find the squid + fish paste at my Local 99 Ranch Market.