Ban Shark Fin Already and Win 2 Tickets to Sans Shark Fin Soup Contest

Posted by on Sep 30, 2011

Recently, a viral video of Gordon Ramsay eating shark fin soup for the first time in Taiwan circulated around the internet.  The gist of it is he tries the infamous soup and proceeds to investigate the horrific shark fin industry.  You may have watched the heartwrenching Sharkwater documentary.  Even basketball star Yao Ming came on board to the anti-finning campaign.  Love or hate him, Gordon Ramsay fulfills that void in the Western culinary world as an influential (and provocative) voice to address the shark finning issue.

Shark fishing for shark fin soup

The victim. Photo: Jon Fletch

Unlike he, I’m well acquainted with shark fin soup, which is considered an essential course in every significant Chinese banquet.  I’ve eaten many bowls of this opulent soup since my childhood without blinking an eye.  It’s a part of my culture and shark fin has always represented “celebration” to me.

The palatable soup is insanely rich in umami because the base is made with “superior” broth.  This labour-intensive broth is a highly concentrated consumé, made with ham, whole chickens, and sometimes pork. The re-hydrated shark fin are long, clear strands that add silky, slurpy texture to the soup.  The thicker the fin, the better regarded the hosts are because of the hefty price tag.

I loved this stuff.  That was, until I discovered that I was actually just in love with the broth.  Like Gordon Ramsay, I learned that shark fin only imparts texture and not flavour.  I’ve had an equally delicious faux-fin version where the strands were made from plant collagen.  That begs the question: why do the Chinese serve the rare and outrageously priced shark fin?

A baby shark - shark fin ban

Shark bodies piled up. Photo: K Rayker

In 1 word: pride.  Serving and indulging in shark fin is a status symbol.  This integral dish is embedded  in our culture’s culinary fabric. Still, that’s not a good enough reason to drive a specie into extinction.

Back to the video, Ramsay is horrified by the sheer volume of dried fins on the market.  He furthers his exploration by going on a  shark finning expedition.  Repulsed by the finning method (of cutting fins off live sharks), he later discovers a huge shark fin with no body in sight.  Fin-and-dump is an illegal practice. Fishermen are supposed to carry the body back to shore but since it’s inconvenient and even impracticable depending on the size, finners often throw the shark overboard and leaves it to drown slowly.

When I became aware of the detrimental environmental impact of shark finning, I’ve taken on the responsibility to help stop this practice and to inform others in my community. To start, I encouraged others (including my parents) to try alternatives to shark fin that can be equally delectable and presentable on special occasions. When talking to the older generation about shark fin, be sensitive about the cultural significance of this product.  Resist being preachy or attributing guilt.

Arm yourself with 3 simple facts:

  • Shark finning is an extremely inhumane practice
  • Sharks are now endangered because of over-finning
  • It’s unreasonably unsustainable to use a tiny part of a whole animal

Naturally, @TheRealMrFury and I have chosen to hold a shark fin free wedding.  As an alternative to shark fin at our engagement celebration dinner at a Chinese restaurant, Red Star prepared a luxurious soup with prized mushrooms in place of shark fin.

Shark Fin-less soup at our Chinese Banquet by Melody Gourmet Fury

Shark fin-less soup at our Chinese Banquet with prized mushrooms and dried scallops in place of the fin.

The struggle today is less about convincing the younger generation than it is the parents and grandparents.  Unlike us, sustainability may not be a part of their regular vocabulary.  Help them agree to ditch the fin will take patience and tact.  One way to ease them into the idea is by bringing them to the San Shark Fin Soup Contest in Vancouver so they can experience how tasty the alternatives can be.  I’ll be there as judge and hope to see you there – be sure to say hi!

 

About the Sans Shark Fin Soup Contest

This October 13th, Shark Truth with the support of Vancouver Foundation presents the Sans Fin Soup Contest: a contest where chefs will be invited to showcase their shark fin-free soup alternative in a tasting challenge to 300 guests at the Renaissance Harbourside Hotel.

Try your hand at winning 2 tickets below too, but I highly encourage you to snag a few tickets to support Shark Truth.  Shark Truth is a fantastic “nonprofit dedicated to promoting awareness, education and action for sharks and around shark fin issues.”

 Sans Shark Fin Soup Contest

 

Win 2 tickets to San Shark Fin Soup Contest

3 simple ways to enter:

  1. Tweet: Win tickets to @SharkTruth’s #SansFinSoup event from @GourmetFury http://ow.ly/6K0ZU
  2. Facebook: Click and “like” this post on Facebook and share with your friends :) FB allows me to see who’s shared the post.
  3. Comment below to suggest an alternative to shark fin soup for an extra entry

It’s that simple! The winner and his/ her guest must personally attend the contest on October 13th at 6pm – 9pm.

The contest closes and the random winner will be announced on October 6th.

More information:

Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside
1133 West Hastings Street
In the 360º Vista Room

Thursday, October 13th
6pm – 9pm

Buy your tickets online now at http://bit.ly/sansfinsouptickets
Find out more at http://sharktruth.com/soup-contest
Read about it in the Georgia Straight: http://bit.ly/sansfinsoupstory

Judges:

Carlos Douh – Local Youtube Celebrity Sensation
Nathan Fong – Global TV / Vancouver Sun
Melody Fury – Food Writer and Gourmet Fury Blogger
Dr. Kerry Jang – Vancouver City Councillor
Chef Donald Gyurkovits – President Canadian Culinary Federation/Fédération Culinaire Canadienne (CCFCC) and the Honorary President for Chinese Canadian Chefs Association
Chef Edgar Rahal – President and Chairman for BC Chefs’ Association

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  • A.J.

    As suggested in the article there are plant collagen that can be substituted for shark fin in the superior broth. 

  • Brenda

    I would use vermicelli.

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    On the streets of Hong Kong, we have something called “shark fin in a little bowl”, which is a delicious soup made with vermicelli, shredded chicken, and mushrooms :)

  • http://twitter.com/tkwan23 tkwan23

    vermicelli is a fine alternative

  • http://twitter.com/DianneChow FabulousFrugalVan

    I would use fungus

  • Jane

    something made of agar-agar maybe? or starch? i also heard about bird nest.

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  • Janine S

    Whoops! I just realized that I posted my comment to the Facebook page, rather than here. I would substitute the shark fin using Ocean Wise recommendations and use the same broth.

  • William Yee

    I’m glad to see awareness is finally spreading. What better city to spearhead this change than Vancouver?

    The Richmond Night Market served an imitation shark fin soup. I believe they used vermicelli. It was tasty AND affordable!

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  • Anonymous

    such a great event! I wish I was going to be in town.
    ~degan.

  • Bons

    I’m not a cook so I’m not in the best position to suggest an alternative.  But using vermicelli would seem like a good fit.

  • Dilara Litonjua

    I’ve actually never had shark fin soup before – once I heard of the inhumane treatment of the sharks I decided then and there to never try it (and support this practice). If the shark fin provides texture only, I don’t see why using vermicelli wouldn’t work just as well.

  • http://twitter.com/KatherineKW ~* Katherine Chu *~

    I too, had a Shark Fin-free wedding! We were pretty adamant about it despite traditions … instead we had nice mushroom and abalone soup :)

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    Sweet! That sounds so much tastier too ;)

  • http://twitter.com/vanessadtam Vanessa Tam

    I really like the soup where they use crab meat and clear crystal noodles to replace the shark fin soup :)

  • http://www.gourmetfury.com/ Melody Fury

    mmm! As long as it’s not Cobia crab from Asia… or is that too much to ask? ;)

  • Karen

    crab meat is a good alternative

  • http://www.foodieonthe49th.com foodieonthe49th

    I snoozed on the ticket buying and now they’re sold out!

    Konyaku be a good substitute for the shark fin.  But is that the same collagen plant fiber???  There is also that ‘shark fin melon’, which is a type of spaghetti squash. 

  • Pete

    Ramsay’s argument to ban shark fin soup makes no sense because:

    1.  Ramsay’s menu at his restaurants are far from sustainable.  He serves many type of meats which are inhumanely killed – 1 example off the top of my head would be foie gras.  

    2.  Ramsay is hated within the vegetarian community (a quick Google search will bring up the controversies).  He’s fooled vegetarians into eating meat on his shows, and has shown a clear disdain for vegetarian cuisine.  This can be seen clearly in Ramsay Kitchen Nightmare UK’s episode, “Piccolo Teatro.”   He is the LAST person that should be preaching about producing sustainable cuisine, and attacking others, especially poor fishermen in impoverished areas about their practices when anyone could walk into any of his restaurants and find 100 bigger ecological footprint problems.  

    3.  You are not just a “fan of the broth”, you are a fan of the shark fin.  Shark fin is not “tasteless”, it tastes like shark fin.  It adds texture to a soup.  As a food critique, you should know that texture is extremely important.  Saying “shark fin is tasteless” is about as erroneous as saying the patty in a Big Mac is tasteless.  But people still eat it, put lettuce, tomatoes and pour condiments all over it.  

    4.  On that same topic, beef consumption is a much bigger issue than shark fin.  Americans over consume on it so much it’s ecological footprint is much more larger than the few affluent Asians in Hong Kong or Japan who might have a bowl of shark fin once a year.  Red meat is also a cause of heart disease, the #1 killer in North America.  So why is red meat okay, but not shark fin?  Because western society (ie: white Americans) feel it’s politically okay to attack something a random dude in Southeast Asia does once a year, but not something they consume every week.  That would be far too inconvenient.  And no, I am not from Southeast Asia, nor am I American.  

    On this note, Ramsay is a huge promoter of streak – he has absolutely 0 credibility when he attacks restaurants that have welcomed him into their restaurants for research, and attacks its patrons.  An anti-meat consumption documentary maker could do the exact same thing to him, and Ramsay would no doubt spazz out.  Luckily, the Chinese restauranateurs showed a lot more class than he would. 

    5.  Before you make the common argument that “we should ban shark fins for it’s cruelty, and not beef because it’s not as cruel”, that’s wrong too.  Cattle meat is processed in large kill factories.  Basically, for anyone that’s seen the documentary on meat processing in the United States (the country passing the most laws against shark fin soups), it is disgusting.  A cow basically goes through an automated cleaver on a large belt, and gets chopped to pieces.  

    6.  Before you make the argument, “Oh, well it was raised to be food.  Unlike a shark that was free in the ocean, then got cut, and thrown back in.”  Realize that many environmentalists make the argument that fishing/hunting for animals is more ethical and natural, than injecting cattle, a pig, or chicken with steroids while it’s in a cage in a kill factory with no room to move for years, before sending it to the cleaver.   

    7. You could make the argument that shark fin is incredibly wasteful, and from a political standpoint it would be the “right thing” to ban it, because it’s important to our oceans.  Yeah, that’s true, but coral reefs are much more important to the balance of marine life.  And coral reefs off the coast of California are wrecked because of boating, over fishing, and CO2 pollution.  So, why are laws being passed in California against shark fins because it’s “bad for the environment”, but acts which destroy coral reefs, which is  even more critical to marine life still legally okay?   

    I’m not one that enjoys seeing the race argument used in the US, but you don’t think this little bias  has something to do with the fact that Uncle Sam likes taking his CO2 spitting boat out, having a porterhouse steak?  But if some random Chinese guy and his Japanese girlfriend in SoCal want 2 bowls of shark fin soup on their anniversary, god forbid, we cannot have that!   Compare the ecological footprints and see who harms the ecosystem more, the guy in SoCal with his hummer and boat, or the guy off the coast of china in his row boat trying to catch a random shark so he can put food on the table for his family. 

    There is a logic behind the banning of shark fin soups.  The problem is the people who push the bans are typically hypocrites. They do not understand sustainability issues, and get their information from extremist documentaries from other people who do not understand sustainability issues.  From a political standpoint, the bans are bias and plain wrong.  There are much bigger issues in the United States that are ignored in terms of animal cruelty in food processing, and ecological issues dealing with marine balance.  

    It’s unfair to point to a very specific culture, and say that their small tradition is unethical and harmful to the environment, when the person pointing the finger is doing things twice as bad ten times more often.  If Americans want shark fin banned in California, then red meat which is the cause of the #1 killer in the United States and is tragic to animal welfare, should be banned to.  It would be the politically just thing to do.  Sorry for the long post, but I’ve had to get this off my mind with all the misinformation going around, the press this issue is getting, and the political fallacies that are being committed.  

    Instead of promoting sensationalist documentaries produced by media whores, what we should do as bloggers and alternative media is get the reasonable, accurate, and level-headed information out.  Unfortunately, no one is doing that for shark fins. 
    It’s even more unfortunate to hear that you grew up around this culture, and never thought about the bans from a political standpoint, and why it’s a slippery slope.  Interesting to see how mass media can even negatively effect independent media.