Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Storm in a Bowl of Shark's Fin Soup

Originally on Londonist here: I write about the shark's fin soup controversy in London's top restaurants and introduce the melon alternative.

Shark's fin soup: it's basically boiled cartilage. And this week, it is served with extra controversy, courtesy of a spat at The Dorchester Hotel's China Tang restaurant that serves this contentious concoction.

Conservationist / film-maker / double-barrel surname Lord Anthony Rufus-Isaacs complained when he was offered a bowl of hot cartilage broth at the super up-market Chinese restaurant, protesting that there is an international campaign against 'finning' which is the process of cutting fins off live sharks then throwing their bodies back into the sea to bleed to death.

China Tang owner, the knighted Hong Kong entrepeneur Sir David Tang reacted to the complaint equally strongly, accusing Rufus-Isaacs of abusing him personally and insulting the entire Chinese nation with his comparison of eating shark's fin soup to 'eating warm monkey's brains.' Both dishes require ghastly preparations but using one to illustrate the other's cruelty is 1) not making the case against finning on its own terms and 2) dangerously close to making a stereotype of Chinese cuisine.

China Tang rejected the complaint, explaining that shark's fin soup was taken off the menu several months ago and it was offered to Rufus-Isaacs by mistake. As shark's fin soup is a dish for special occasions, we would like to offer a recipe for shark-friendly fake-fin soup for a conciliation meal: shark fin melon soup. Yes, celebrate! There is a melon with a fibrous texture just like the fine shreds of shark fin when cooked in broth, and can be made without harming any marine life! Sir David, Lord Anthony, we think you can be friends and dine together after all.

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