Can Tilapia Take the Place of Shark in Shark Fin Soup?

Categories: Really?!?!?
California has made international news with our recent effort to ban the sale of shark fin soup, the Chinese delicacy that unfortunately is leading to the extinction of too many shark species. Now comes word from a Taiwanese fish farmer that he has a perfect solution, one that doesn't necessarily ban the soup: substitute tilapia fins for the shark fin.

Skeptical? Tell that to Wang Yi-feng.



He told Taiwan Today that, after a year of trying, he discovered that a tilapia's caudal fin (otherwise known as the tail fin) is almost an exact match to the shark's pectoral and dorsal fins once prepared in soup form.

"Wang, who graduated from Da-Yeh University's Department of Food Science and Technology, said tilapia fins--just like shark fins--are composed mainly of cartilage, which is flavorless but has a chewy consistency favored by diners," Taiwan Today reported.

Hmm...maybe one of you chefs out there who have tried shark fin soup can report back to us if this is the case. But the bigger problem I see is that, even if true, how many people want to buy tilapia fin soup as a substitute for shark fin? The cachet of the dish, of course, is its exotic nature (like foie gras and caviar), and tilapia ain't exactly a rarity. Still, one can dream...

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5 comments
Ptan Inan
Ptan Inan

I agree .... with new recipes based tilapia fish tail fin. new menu and shark catches and no longer as a species from extinction

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Well, if some of them would like to go down to El Mazateño in Tijuana they can try sopa de aleta de atún, tuna fin soup. It's got that same poppy, gelatinous, cui-in-Chinese texture... and it's generally from yellowfin that's been trolled (as opposed to long-line fished).

909Jeff
909Jeff

Can they not find a way to make "imitation shark fin" using tilapia just like they use white fish (pollack, Hoki, etc...) to make imitation crab?  

Carrion Fairy
Carrion Fairy

I think the fact of what the shark fin symbolizes is what will prove most difficult for it to take off. Shark fin symbolizes power, wealth, social status, etc and ideas like that can't be substituted. 

Carrion Fairy
Carrion Fairy

And also the many health benefits that the Chinese believe it holds. Aphrodisiac, chi-enhancer, complexity, immune system boost, etc. It goes deeper than worrying about how the substitute will change the taste.

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