Don’t worry, this dish contains no actual cattails. Cattail is an English name for a kind of water reed grown around the Jinan area of Shandong. It forms the basis of one of the town’s most famous dishes. The secret to the dish, however, is neither cattails nor milk but is instead a decadent and gelatinous white soup of boiled bones. Destination Flavour China 






Skill level

Average: 2.6 (20 votes)


  • 3 kg pork bones
  • 1 whole duck
  • 1 Chinese cabbage, cut into large chunks
  • ¼ cup dried scallops, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
  • 1 dried fish maw, or ¼ cup dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
  • 1 pig’s trotter
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 10 cattails, cut into 1 cm pieces, or 3 large leeks, white parts only, halved and cut into 1 cm pieces
  • Salt, to taste

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


You have to begin this recipe a day ahead.

Soaking time overnight

1. Using a cleaver, crack the pork bones to expose the marrow. Split the duck in half and place the duck, pork bones and the trotter into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Refrigerate overnight.

2. The following day, discard the soaking water and transfer the ingredients to a large stockpot.

3. Add the Chinese cabbage and the soaked dried seafood together with the soaking liquid. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 hours, topping up with extra water as it evaporates.

4. The final stock should be thick, white and slightly reduced. Strain through a fine sieve and discard the solids.

5. Heat a wok over medium heat and then turn off the heat.

6. Rub with a little of the oil. Pour the beaten egg into the wok and roll it around to form a very fine skin. Allow the egg to cook and set, then flip it over to cook the other side. Peel the egg skin from the wok and allow to cool, then slice into 1 cm-wide strips.

7. Heat the wok over high heat and add the remaining oil. Stir-fry the cattails or leeks for 1-2 minutes or until softened but not browned.

8. Add about 2 litres of the strained stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt, then stir through the egg skin and serve.


Photography by Adam Liaw.

Destination Flavour China with Adam Liaw airs 7.30pm, Wednesday on SBS and then on SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.