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Shark fin soup for the soul

By on Sep 13, 2010 in Travel | 4 comments

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I ate shark fin soup today. Boy, do I feel like a right bastard for contributing towards the extinction of an endangered species.

See those pinkish chunks floating in the soup? Those are pieces of shark fin. It’s scant in its presence as this a ‘mass-market’ version; gourmet shark fin soup costs a bomb (~$100, I’ve heard) and comes with sizeable cartilaginous chunks of shark fin.

Shark fin itself apparently has no taste, and it takes the flavour of whatever broth it is in. Most often the broth is chicken soup, as it was here. I didn’t know what to expect when I placed my order, so I requested for an extra helping of vegetables to mellow down the taste. Shark fin is…chewy – and in my case tasted like chicken since that was what the stock was.

Those of you who know me would know I’ve been a vegetarian for many years now. Vegetarianism is a personal choice I made arising out of taste rather than any religious or ethical compunctions. All that has gone for a toss here in Singapore though since you’ll be hard-pressed to find vegetarian eating options here!

(Do you ‘eat’ soup or ‘drink’ soup? The consensus seems to be that if the soup contains solids such as croutons then the verb is ‘eat’, otherwise ‘drink’ for light broths. I think when the words ‘shark fin’ precede the word ‘soup’, the verb should most definitely be ‘eat’.)

Clockwise from lower left: Crispy biscuit, egg-and-seaweed fold, sandwich biscuit, chin chow drink, shark fin soup

I also had an egg-and-seaweed fold in the same meal – it’s a dish that roughly has the consistency of a dumpling on the outside, with a filling of puffy egg whites and seaweed strands. ‘Crispy biscuit’ is akin to a poppadum, coated in yoghurt-based dressing; ‘sandwich biscuit’ is a slice of pie stuffed with mashed potato. By the end of my meal, I realized that I had ordered too much food.

Picture courtesy Sjschen

Blocks of grass jelly

The drink that you see in the picture above is ‘Chin Chow drink’. I asked the cashier/server at the (separate) place I bought the drink as to what was in it. He just smiled enigmatically, gave me back my change, and called another woman at the shop who gestured towards the crushed ice and said, “It taste better when ice bottom.”

I later found out ‘chin chow’ is the Chinese name for grass jelly – made from the leaves of a mint-family plant. When you order a ‘chin chow drink’, you get blocks of grass jelly mixed with black, minty tasting liquid with crushed ice on top.

I got more than my money’s worth out of the meal (cheap and filling at S$4.50) but the item that piqued my interest when I saw it on the menu – the shark fin soup – didn’t make a distinct impression on me except for hurting my conscience. Maybe this tasted like nothing more than chicken soup because it’s cheap shit. Maybe some day – when my conscience has recovered, and my wallet is thicker – I’ll try ‘real’ shark fin soup.

****

I went to the Fairprice Xtra superstore at Jurong Point Shopping Centre to stock up on breakfast cereals and snacks. I consider myself to be good Samaritan, so when I noticed an unattended package lying at the checkout counter I pointed it out to the checkout counter lady (‘CCL’ in the conversation below).

Me: Ahem. It’s seems someone forgot their groceries here.

CCL: That belong to you.

Me: Really?! Are you sure?

CCL: [points to the entry ‘Pringles x 2’ on my bill, out of around just six items] This. Belong. To. You.

(She probably wasn’t trying to be sarcastic with the emphasis. Probably. I like to think it was because she had difficulty speaking in English.)

Me: Ah. Yes.

Being a checkout counter employee at a superstore must require patience than a hostage negotiator does.



4 Comments

  1. Pulkit Kauhik

    September 13, 2010

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    *Looks at the bits of fin in the soup. Pukes. Pukes again. Pukes some more. Pukes some more again.*

    PS: I am a vegetarian.

    PPS: Do you drink Sambhar or eat it?

    • Ankur Banerjee

      September 13, 2010

      Post a Reply

      I was a vegetarian before I came here to Singapore. I’ve given up now, there’s no sane way of staying with that choice!

      You…don’t really drink sambhar separately, do you? It’s supposed to be eaten with the dosa. I’d reckon that counts as eat.

  2. agrim

    September 13, 2010

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    Boy are you having fun or what. Haha where did you go for the shark fin soup? will have to check this place out :P

    • Ankur Banerjee

      September 13, 2010

      Post a Reply

      Not a fancy place at all! There’s this food court at Jurong Point Shopping Centre (Boon Lay interchange) near Golden Village cinemas. It’s a small shop towards the outer extremes of the food court. Is this a common menu item in restaurants here or hard to find?

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