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Shark Fin Ban

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Due to the impending shark fin ban in California (no more fins after June 30). A fin tastings at LA restaurants that offer fins a la carte is hereby proposed. Clearly, there are vast differences in fin grades and different cooking styles.
The rule is simple. Order your pick of the version that best suited you from each restaurant 's ready to serve/a la carte menu (walk-in, no pre-ordering). In the past 6 months, I have enjoyed impromptu shark fin soup at the followings places:
Sam Woo (Monterey Park), Shanghai #1, Sea Harbor and Top Island.
I will try a few more places this weekend and summarize my findings eventually. All suggestions are welcome.

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  1. I like the shark fin at Elite.

    1. Sorry, by Sam Woo (Monterey Park) I mean Sham Tseng BBQ. I had their $10 shark fin special.

      7 Replies
      1. re: FallingLeaves

        Wait, you realize that's ... not ... really ... fin, right?

        1. re: ipsedixit

          What we ordered looked and tasted real. I was tipped off to this shark fin offering at this restaurant by the following link: http://626foodettes.com/post/44600821...

          1. re: FallingLeaves

            The other 626 foodette is ClarissaW.

            Sham Tseng's personal sized shark fin could be something referred to as 魚唇 or 翅裙, if it is not fake or imitation, the former translates roughly as fish lips, and the latter means the skirt of the shark fin. These are actually interchangeable HK Cantonese definitions, but in Taiwan 魚唇 means fish or shark skin. Either way they are cheaper substitutes, and only seasoned eaters can tell the difference. Technically this part is actually the cartilage/fins near or by the tail.

            1. re: K K

              626 Foodettes are two young women, of which ClarissaW is one. The one who wrote this article is Kristie Hang (http://www.kristiehang.com/). AFAIK, she does not post on CH.

              1. re: K K

                If what Sham Tsang sells is not technically shark fin but shark fin adjacent (the skirt of the shark fin) and they sell it as shark fin. It is banned next month? As far as I know other shark parts are not banned in California. Just the fins.

                1. re: FallingLeaves

                  The dim sum restaurants that serve "shark fin dumpling in soup", generally use the skirt / tailend side or a lower grade...never the high end real deal. Nomenclature or choice of words to name a dish is also very important in Cantonese seafood restaurants. I'm sure a restaurant wouldn't want to get into trouble with the law by association since some people (perhaps the authorities also) cannot tell the difference.

                  Do the likes of Elite and Sea Harbor have something silly arse crazy like Koi Palace in NorCal, offering a full shark fin themed banquet (at $400 per person?) up until day before the ban, where EVERY course has shark fin from appetizer to dessert?

                  http://tinyurl.com/lzqtppg

                  The foodies and foodettes might be interested in the black truffle shark fin xiao long bao... haha. Vulgarity at its worst, but it's quite funny.

                  1. re: K K

                    Do the likes of Elite and Sea Harbor have something silly arse crazy like Koi Palace in NorCal, offering a full shark fin themed banquet (at $400 per person?) up until day before the ban, where EVERY course has shark fin from appetizer to dessert?
                    _____________________

                    Many years ago Empress Harbour would do one on special request. But no more since the change in ownership about a decade ago.

        2. Paid top dollar at a high end restaurant in HK for braised whole shark fin and found it just okay and very lacking compared to the whole braised abalone. For that kind of money, I would go for the braised abalone every time.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Porthos

            10% of shark fin is for the texture.
            90% is just for the glam factor. Sort of like gold dusted sushi.

            And if someone was eating shark fin simply for the texture, it can just as easily be replicated with a combo of corn starch slurry and some tapicoa.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              I always thought dong fen (cellophane noodles) would be a good substitute for mock shark fin as long as it was al dente.

              1. re: PeterCC

                No, not really. The noodles themselves simply look like you are using shark fin.

                But no one orders shark fin to eat the actual fin, they order it for the sort of gummy, creamy texture that it imparts on a dish (usu. soup).

                The places that are selling "faux" shark fin are using some sort of vermicelli or cello noodles to replicate the look of fin, but if you want to duplicate the texture or mouthfeel of fin, it's usually done by some sort of rustic Chinese molecular gastronomy, or just corn starch.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  But no one orders shark fin to eat the actual fin, they order it for the sort of gummy, creamy texture that it imparts on a dish
                  =================

                  That's the "cheap" stuff ($40-60pp)

                  The top end stuff ($100-$300++pp) stays intact on braising and you are supposed to eat the entire intact fin to get both the crunchy texture and gelatin combined. In fact, there's nothing but an entire fin or fins on the dish with braising sauce. No veggies, no sides, nada. Only fin.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    I don't eat the whole fin. Never did. Never will.

                  2. re: ipsedixit

                    I love eating the actual fin...

                    1. re: PeterCC

                      Me too.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  Yes, it definitely has more to do with status than taste.

                3. re: Porthos

                  I agree, I'd rather have braised abalone, shitake, and goose webbed feet, then get some thick egg noodles to soak up the sauce, like Cantonese lo mein, then ideally have some dried shrimp roe sprinkled on top.