Every year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins alone. Shark fins are used to make shark fin soup, a popular and expensive dish that is a symbol of wealth and status primarily in Asian cultures.
The demand for fins can lead to cruel and wasteful practices, such as cutting off a shark’s fins at sea and then throwing the rest of the shark, sometimes still alive, back into the water. And shark fin soup can be dangerous to humans. Since sharks are at the top of the food chain, they accumulate toxins like mercury, which is a dangerous neurotoxin.
So are there any alternatives to shark fin soup? Shark fins themselves have no taste and are used only for texture. In traditional shark fin soup recipes, chicken or fish stock is added to give the soup flavor which means that there are a lot of ways to enjoy shark fin soup without using shark fins – like this recipe from the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
- (Serves 6)
- 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
Soak the black mushrooms, tree ear mushrooms and cellophane noodles separately in hot water for 4 hours until they soften. Drain well.
Remove the hard stems of the black mushrooms (you can save them to cook with other Chinese soups) and cut the remaining pieces into small strips. Chop the tree ear mushrooms into small pieces and cut the cellophane noodles into 1-inch pieces with scissors. Set aside.
Slice the chicken breast and pork into thin strips.
Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil. Add the chicken, pork, black and tree ear mushrooms, and cook until all ingredients are cooked through and softened. Add the cellophane noodles, soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper and salt to taste.
In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water to make a thick slurry. Return the soup to a boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and beaten egg and mix well. Remove from heat and serve in small bowls.
Some sharkless shark fin soups are so good that even chefs can’t tell the difference! So try this shark-friendly alternative to traditional shark fin soup, and let us know what you think.