More on the topic of eating rays and shark-like things, Yao Ming recently stepped up to the plate (darn, wrong sport!) on the topic of wildlife preservation, vowing not to eat shark fin soup. He joins environmentalists who condemn the overfishing of sharks, whose fins are mainly prepared in the traditional, highly expensive delicacy in Chinese cuisine, shark fin soup. Eating shark fin soup has, for thousands of years, denoted a status of wealth and prestige, commonly served at weddings and banquets. It is a clear, glutinous, and delicately-flavored soup with strands of shark fin meat throughout each spoonful. Bowls of this soup have been known to cost as much as $400 in Hong Kong. But increased affluency (and an increased desire to be affluent) has made shark fin meat and fishing much more ubiquitious in the past two decades in China.
Because of how lucrative the return for fishing shark can be, the species’ numbers have dropped considerably; erstwhile many unscrupulous fishermen have turned to the practice of “finning”: cutting off the fins of the shark, then throwing the incapacitated animals back in the water for them to die. “Finning” has been officially banned in China, however, as common sense would tell one, as long as the demand for shark fin meat persists, they will be fished.
So far, trying to dissuade the public from eating shark fin soup is almost like saying they can no longer eat moon cakes. Natural substitutes for shark fin include clear mung bean noodles, and spaghetti squash (which both sound much better to me as I try to rid the image of a shark without a fin from my head). Hopefully the face of Yao Ming toward this cause will put even more legislation in motion, not to mention influence popular tastes. My idea: just get the 7″5-inch basketball idol in front of a shark fisher, have him boom out something to the contrary, and it should be as good as the word of god.
Another article featured in the Times, further examining how food and status is often linked for the Chinese. The only thing I wish they might have explored a little are the various medicinal benefits believed to be associated with eating shark fin, just for curiosity…