Photo by yasushi00 via Flickr CC
One of the questions asked by author Julie Eiplerin in her book Demonfish is why there isn't a sustainable substitute for shark fin in shark fin soup. It seems clear that a dense noodle would suffice for a similar texture minus all the mercury. Oh, and minus the killing of over 80 million sharks every year. This recipe from Monterey Bay Aquarium by chef Peter Pahk is a perfect alternative, offering the best in flavor without the shark. This recipe is far easier to prepare than traditional soup, because the most labor intensive part is re-hydrating and cooking the sliver of fin used in the soup. And it sounds delicious. It calls for:
- 1 ounce Chinese black mushrooms (shitake)
- 8-10 pieces of dried tree ear mushrooms
- 2 ounces cellophane noodles
- 2 ounces skinless raw chicken breast
- 2 ounces lean raw pork
- 2 cups unsalted chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- Dash of sesame oil
- White pepper, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
And the preparation seems quite easy. You could probably even make a veggie version by using vegetable broth in lieu of chicken stock and using tofu instead of pork and chicken (though admittedly that would alter the flavor quite a bit). Either way, you're saving sharks by skipping the fin, and that's what counts most.
A reason for the lack of substitute for shark fin is that the dish itself is more about prestige, about the ability to afford the soup, than about flavor. But when we put our egos above the preservation of a key species that keeps our oceans alive, it's clear we have a serious problem with setting priorities.
Hopefully this soup recipe or others like it become an accepted alternative for those who want the flavor without the decimation of our ocean.
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More on Shark Fins
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