Yee Tau Mai - Recipe

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes

Serves 4

  • 1.5 Kg of Rockling fish head (ask the fishmonger to cut them into pieces) 
  • 3 or 4 Salmon fish head and/or fish backbones of any kind (for the broth)
  • 1 box of Tofu (250-350 gm)
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch spring onion
  • 1-2 knobs of ginger root
  • 1 bunch of Choy Sum or Baby Bak Choy or other Chinese green of choice
  • 1 packet of Rice Vermicelli ( the thicker variety preferred) 


A. Preparing the broth
  • Wash the Salmon heads and backbones thoroughly, and ensure that you remove the gills. You do not need to get rid of the fish scales because we will strain the broth when ready.
  •  Shallow fry the fish heads and backbones till fragrant.
  • Place them in a large stock pot and add enough water for serving up 4 big bowls of noodles, and a little more for good measure.
  • Smash the ginger root with the back of your cleaver before adding it to the broth.
  • Bring it to a boil and then reduce to medium-low heat and boil for an hour, meanwhile prepare your Rockling fish heads.
  • The broth will turn milky white gradually. Commercially, this is simulated using evaporated milk which spoils the taste. 

B. Preparing the Rockling fish heads
  • Ensure that the fish is thoroughly cleaned. The gills of the Rockling is somewhat hidden, so find them and remove completely. I once attended a pot luck dinner where one of the guest made Sambal Fish using Rockling heads with gills intact!
  • Cut the fish heads into chunks that will fit your bowls. 
  • Wash the heads and dry them generously with paper towel. The drier the better, for reduced splashing when deep frying them later.
  • Sprinkle salt on the fish heads and rub it in with your hands. 
  • Dust the heads completely with corn flour, including the underside and inside of the heads.
  • Heat the wok with enough oil for deep frying 2 or 3 pieces at a time.
  • When the oil is hot, gently slide in the fish pieces, and be careful with oil splashes while frying the fish.
  • Deep fry till the fish turns a golden colour and place on paper towel to drain excess oil.

C. Preparing the other ingredients
  • Cut the Choy Sum into 6 cm lengths
  • Cut the tofu into 2 cm cubes 
  • Cut the spring onions into 3-4 cm lengths. For best results, only use the white part of the stalk, but the green bit is fine if you don't mind it being a little soft in the broth.
  • Cut the tomatoes into 8s
  • Soak the rice vermicelli in boiling water until they turn white, indicating that they are cooked, and strain immediately
  • Keep it warm and ready for service.

D. Preparing to serve 
  • Strain the broth into a separate pot and bring it to a boil.
  • Add tofu and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  • Add Choy Sum and turn off the stove.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Assemble the noodles into a large bowl and then the Rockling pieces, and spring onion on the very top. 
  • Pour the boiling broth, tofu and tomatoes over the noodles in the bowl.
  • Serve immediately.