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Shark's Fin

Bat Guano Jun 23, 2009 01:24 PM

So I went deep sea fishing and we caught a good-size shark, a 100+ lb. hammerhead. After filleting the beast (LOTS of good meat!) the fish cutter was about to throw the head and frame into the water, including the fins, so I asked for them. After a bit of 'negotiation' and a 'tip' that he requested because cutting off the fins is apparently hard on his knives, I got them. Now I don't know what to do with them.

So no, these are not ethically challenged shark fins, and I figure I can make soup or whatever with a clear conscience - if I knew how. Anybody? After looking online, it seems that most people buy the fins already prepared in some way - skinned and dried, processed who knows how. These are just fresh fins, with the skin still on them, just hanging out in my freezer awaiting further instructions. Whatever intel you can give me will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  1. g
    gourmanda Jul 2, 2009 12:18 PM

    Too late now, but you might take a look at the following to see that many hammerhead sharks, indeed many, many species of shark, are endangered or threatened

    http://www.iucnredlist.org/search
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news...

    You can also google "are hammerhead sharks endangered". The Marine Stewardship Council is also a good reference for sustainable fish. I highly recommend "The End of the Line: How Overfishing is Changing the World and What We Eat" by Charles Clover. Very eye-opening for me.

    1. chef chicklet Jul 2, 2009 07:20 AM

      As a birthday present I just recieved Teresa Chen's new book, A Tradition of Soup.
      She is a friend of my hubby's and I have been waiting for this book forever!

      Anyway, she has a section that speaks about using different fish as ingredients, she mentions the dried and processed shark's fin, and also the frozen ($100 a piece!) which she writes "is the easiest to work with", so I'd say, why not fresh? You'll probably achieve an outstandingly fresh and delicious soup.

      7 Replies
      1. re: chef chicklet
        ipsedixit Jul 2, 2009 08:53 AM

        Uh, no. Fresh fin (or cartilage) is a very different thing than dried and processed fin.

        This is just like many other things used to flavor soups and stocks in Chinese cooking -- e.g. scallops versus conpoy, fresh versus dried shrimp, etc.

        1. re: ipsedixit
          chef chicklet Jul 2, 2009 02:49 PM

          I buy that, I went to the section in her book where she was discussing the ingredients and you got me thinking. So I got on the phone and called her. She said that you'll get the same gelantinous quality, but she did recommned the dried. Thanks for responding because it looks like there is a change that I'll be able to participate in some of her blog feedback and with other recipes!
          These are recipes gathered from all the seniors, and their memories of soup on China's Pearl River Delta. Wonderful information about the medicinal thought process behind these recipes.

          I adore Chinese food and have always wanted to make the sacred Shark Fin soup, but of course I could never afford it. Since my son fishes and sometimes catches shark, I wondered about it so what the heck I have to try it. I agree the dried version of seafood are so concentrated and pack much more flavor. Exciting.

          1. re: chef chicklet
            ipsedixit Jul 2, 2009 09:39 PM

            Wow. That sounds like great feedback from her. Good luck with the shark's fin soup. It's one of my favorite dishes - with a heavy splash of black vinegar of course!

            1. re: chef chicklet
              yimster Jul 2, 2009 11:50 PM

              If you ever get the shank jelly cartilage I sure someone (maybe me if I see the post) will give a recipe. I am sure that susancinsf will love hearing about it. I is a wonderful starting point for great meals. I still remember a cold winters night when my Mother is an enlighten moment make this wonton and water dumpling soup with chunks of shark fins. I still dream about it. Maybe someday I will have the time and ingredients to do it again.

              One last point the best jelly cartilage is from the side fins (small compare to the back fins) not the back fins. The back fins has more meat less jelly cartilage.

              Instead of black vinegar I use a dash of good French bandy.

              1. re: yimster
                chef chicklet Jul 3, 2009 04:48 AM

                Thanks ipsedixit and yimster, I have never had this soup, lucky you. I can remember years ago, I would go to Oakland or SF Chinatown, and just stare in awe at the packages dried seafood. Then I saw a package of sharksfin. (also the birds nests) and it just was so unusual and so expensive. I immediately began to read and study recipes and my, it seemed to be so delicate, I could almost imagine how it would taste.

                I feel like one of my dearest wishes came true when she talked to me, and if you check out her book I know you will be amazed. Oprah has approached her sort of like how she handles Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz. Dr. Chen has a clinic in Stockton with other doctors, and her husband, Dr. Wu is also very much respected. But she has declined Oprah, she is only in it to help and teach, not to make money. I just love her for that!

                Now. I absolutely will try all the that you've recommended, let's just hope my son catches a shark!

                1. re: chef chicklet
                  yimster Jul 3, 2009 09:09 AM

                  If you want to try shark fin with having shark fin. Then there is something you can buy at a Asian market. Fake shank fin,. not even close but for texture if cook not too long it not bad. Made from some kind jelly like mixture. Nothing out of this world, but had some a meatless meal once and was very good.

            2. re: ipsedixit
              Fritter Jul 3, 2009 05:47 AM

              "Uh, no. Fresh fin (or cartilage) is a very different thing than dried and processed fin."

              That may well be true but in this case the OP has fresh shark fin and I totally agree with Chicklet. There is no reason not to use it and the OP will undoubtedly be able to achieve some very good soup even if it is a different product from the dried.
              Here is a link to a thread the OP may find interesting and helpful. Since the shark fins in this thread and the one I'm linking were both harvested from sport fishing just skip over the lectures on the evils of shark fin and get to the meat of the topic. :)

              http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s...

          2. c
            Cinnamon Jun 23, 2009 09:36 PM

            Here's a Chow blast from the past on the topic:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/432931

            I had the most amazing shark fin soup in the 80s at, of all places, the Hard Rock Cafe up near the wharf in San Francisco.

            Also am wondering if there's a way to make fish stock from some of the rest of the carcass.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cinnamon
              Bat Guano Jun 24, 2009 09:29 AM

              The carcass probably would have made many gallons of great stock, but it was unceremoniously dumped into the water by the fish cutter, probably so he wouldn't have to deal with any more annoying requests for parts. (He'd been throwing the frames of smaller fish to the pelicans clustered on the dock, but this was obviously much too large for that treatment.)

              1. re: Cinnamon
                Fritter Jul 2, 2009 06:57 AM

                "Also am wondering if there's a way to make fish stock from some of the rest of the carcass"

                There is indeed. Back in the 80's I dealt with a lot of whole sharks. If you clean them they are nothing short of brutal on knives. Basically I would boil them but shark stock is an odd beast. The stock goes through color phases where it can change from yellow to a slight green tint. Remember sharks essentially release urea through their skin.
                When the stock cools it sets up solid like gelatin. I would use it as a base or flavor enhancer in chowders etc.
                There are some health benefits as well. Shark cartilage contains Chondroitin and there is on going research about the benefits of Shark cartilage helping with both cancer and
                Osteoporosis.

              2. ipsedixit Jun 23, 2009 02:33 PM

                Preparing fresh fins for preparation in traditional Chinese shark's fin soup is quite involved, and usually not something a home chef can accomplish efficiently, or easily.

                Shark fin (or cartilage) is usually first boiled-dried, then soaked in hot water, and then any meat that is remaining is removed. The cartilage is then boiled again and bleached (to give it a more appealing appearance), and then sun (or oven) dried. It's then either packaged for sale fresh, or frozen.

                This isn't a process I would want to undertake at home ...

                1 Reply
                1. re: ipsedixit
                  Bat Guano Jun 24, 2009 09:27 AM

                  Thanks....since this is probably the only way I'll ever eat shark's fin soup, which I've heard so much about, since I won't buy prepared fins, I'll give it a shot anyway. Probably leave out the bleaching part. As several people have reminded me, it's reputed to be an aphrodisiac, too (but then, a lot of things are, in China).

                2. k
                  KTinNYC Jun 23, 2009 02:29 PM

                  Shark's fin is prized more for it's texture than flavor. Make a very flavorful Chinese chicken stock and add the fin. I'm not sure if it needs to be skinned but I don't see why the fresh fin would not break up but you may need to shred the fin fin yourself.

                  Here is a good recipe http://chickyegg.blogspot.com/2009/01...

                  1. ScubaSteve Jun 23, 2009 02:05 PM

                    i've never seen, nor could i Google, any recipe that calls for fresh shark's fin.
                    if you do find something or wing-it please post back as i sometimes have an opportunity to get fresh shark's fins.

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