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Dec 5, 2012 02:47 PM

turtle soup at a restaurant?

anyone know where to find turtle soup (made from real turtle)? i would assume there is at least one chinese restaurant in the bay area that serves this dish. don't know if any western places serve it.

sam's grill serves mock turtle soup made from ground turkey -- this is not what i'm looking for.

thank you.

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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Any idea where they source turtle meat?

      1. re: Veggo

        I agree that this is an important question. Particularly since the State of California has a ban in place for the importation of both frogs & turtles for food sale. Thus, any "turtle soup" you might be buying has to come from a domestic source, & those are far & few between.

        1. re: Bacardi1

          i thought you suggested they were all imported from asia? i know for sure chinatown sells live frogs and turtles for food consumption. maybe these are imported from the deep south?

          1. re: Dustin_E

            It depends on the state. California has the ban. As far as other states, you'd have to check.

            Oh, & I've had turtle soup. Decades ago. Like in the 60's. Didn't like it then, & have no desire to find out whether or not I'd like it now.

            1. re: Bacardi1

              Bacardi, I'm trying to find the legislation about turtle meat - I can see that Sea Turtles are not available for sale, but I have seen small, land turtles for sale in Chinatown and am not convinced it is banned.

              1. re: CarrieWas218

                I'm completely unaware that any species of "land turtle" (aka tortoises) are used for food - at least not here in the U.S. Even if the "turtles" you saw were not in water, it's extremely likely that they were water turtles nonetheless. Water turtles can live for quite a long time out of water. Like weeks.

                Oh - & any baby "land turtles" (baby Box Turtles, etc.) you see for sale in Chinatown are being sold as "pets". It's illegal, but, like, who cares? All I can say is, don't buy them. Sounds cruel, but the more they sell, the more they'll continue the illegal practice.

                One more thing. Many states now have a ban on harvesting the now-endangered "Diamondback Terrapin", which lives primarily in eastern saltwater & brackish water areas. This was/is the creature that made "Turtle Soup" famous in the southern U.S. In fact, it was once exported to Asia, where it's still considered a delicacy & where some sad commercial farming of it continues.

                This is just my opinion, but it completely escapes me why anyone would want to eat a soup made from an endangered animal, even if it somehow appears on a menu. Just my opinion.

                (And like I stated before, I HAD turtle soup decades ago before it became an issue, & it was absolutely NOTHING to write home about.)

                1. re: Bacardi1

                  are you sure all varieties of turtle used for cooking are endangered?

                  i've seen turtle served in these contexts:

                  - new orleans (brennan's, galatoire, etc)
                  - served at some kaiseki places in tokyo
                  - historical delicacy (babette's feast, titanic last meal, etc)

                  i have no idea if these are all from the same species of turtle, but am very curious if you or anyone else knows. thanks.

                  1. re: Dustin_E

                    I believe the Chinese use soft-shelled turtles.

                    1. re: Dustin_E

                      The common snapping turtle is not endangered.

                      1. re: Dustin_E

                        I had turtle soup in London once -- a non-Asian preparation. I have no idea where the turtle came from, but now I wonder.

                        ETA: Wikipedia says green turtle is or was used in the UK. Links to mock turtle soup make me think of the poor Mock Turtle in Alice.

                      2. re: Bacardi1

                        So I have learned there are salt-water turtles and fresh-water turtles.

                        All sea turtles occurring in U.S. waters are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and are under the joint jurisdiction of NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are also listed in CITES Appendix I

                        Green turtles and olive ridley turtles have breeding populations that were listed separately under the ESA, and therefore, have more than one ESA status.

                        I'm not convinced there isn't a variety that is not endangered that can't be consumed.

                        1. re: CarrieWas218

                          There are several species of freshwater turtles that can be taken with a California fishing license:


                      3. re: CarrieWas218

                        California banned importing live turtles in 2010. I don't know that it's enforced.


                        1. re: CarrieWas218

                          Don't have time to do it for you, but do a websearch. You'll find it.

                      4. re: Dustin_E

                        according to a random web article, there is (or was in 2008) a turtle farm somewhere in california:

                        "You have a good turtle soup recipe, you hang on to it -- you guard it with your life," said Chef Ken Fink of 5 Fools Restaurant in McCandless. He makes 5 gallons every week, with frozen California farm-raised turtle meat and more than 20 other ingredients.


                        "Once commonly made with sea turtles before they became endangered and protected, most turtle soup in America today is made with freshwater and farm-raised turtles. I found turtle meat -- farm-raised and frozen snapping turtle -- at Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District. It comes in 5-pound tubs and Wholey's will cut it to order. And it's not cheap, at $16 per pound."

                        wonder if any fish markets around here carry turtle meat like this.

                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          So it looks like sea turtle became unavailable as food ~30-40 years ago:

                          "In recent decades, sea turtles have moved from unrestricted exploitation to global protection, with individual countries providing additional protection, although serious threats remain unabated."


                          So only the smaller and fresh-water snapping turtles are available now.

                          The following 1881 article would imply the flavor is about the same, albeit much more labor intensive, but it is unclear if this is only comparing to other sea turtles:

                          "Procure a fine, lively, fat turtle, weighing about 120 pounds, fish of this weight being considered the best, as their fat is not liable to be impregnated with that disagreeable, strong flavor objected to in fish of larger size. On the other hand, turtles of very small size seldom possess sufficient fat or substance to make them worth dressing."


                          perhaps modern turtle-farming methods have made extracting "fat" and "substance" easier and more worth the effort.

                          Finally, come to think of it, i have had this dish at koi palace and a now-closed chinese place in chinatown on broadway:


                          but it is unclear if either actually contained any real turtle. And in any case, this wasn't the type of soup i was interested in.

                          1. re: Dustin_E

                            I have memories from the mid-70's, when I ate my fair share of turtle steaks in Mazatlan and elsewhere along the Mexican Pacific coast, before needs for restrictions had been identified. Its taste and texture were similar, I thought, to flank steak. These were green sea turtles. Around 1985, concerns for them had arisen, and I remember a panga boat returning from a day of fishing in Guerrero, about 40KM north of Acapulco, and the fisherman had captured a live green turtle and was dragging it from shore. I bought it from him and released it and I have been on the side of ocean critters ever since. So, yes, a lot of change in the last 30 years.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      excellent, thanks.

                      do you know if it need to be ordered ahead of time?

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          did you see it listed on a menu? or do you know people who have had it there? (or have you?) if so, how was it?

                    3. So I guess the turtle soup you refer to here is different from snapping turtle soup which while no longer ubiquitous in South Jersey is still relatively common?

                      1. Yum's Bistro in Newark does it, but like many places, you'll want to pre-order and check.


                        Champagne Soup in Milbrae does it, but it's a very new concept and hasn't been vetted.


                        1. it is usually made from snapping turtle, hence the title "Snapper Soup". It is/was a specialty of the house at Bookbinders seafood restaurant in Philly, which closed. Here's the Richmond, Va. location, and it is on the menu

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MacshashRIP

                            "Bookbinder's" still sells it in cans:


                            Every so often I come upon it in certain supermarkets around here.