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.
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?
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.
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.”
Win 2 tickets to San Shark Fin Soup Contest
3 simple ways to enter:
- Tweet: Win tickets to @SharkTruth’s #SansFinSoup event from @GourmetFury http://ow.ly/6K0ZU
- Facebook: Click and “like” this post on Facebook and share with your friends :) FB allows me to see who’s shared the post.
- 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.
Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside
1133 West Hastings Street
In the 360º Vista Room
Thursday, October 13th
6pm – 9pm
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