Can You Fake Shark's Fin? A Taste Test
|See the almost imperceptible strands of fake shark's fin?|
At Benu, Corey Lee has come up with a faux-fin soup that made it onto SFoodie's 2011 list of our favorite dishes. Part of his 12-course tasting menu, the soup is a grand and subtle dish that captures the silky chew of the fin. Despite the fact that the effect is created by using a blend of gelling agents to create filaments of broth, the black truffles and crab ensure that it's no less luxurious. Even your grandmother would be impressed.
Then there's the "fin soup" at Eggettes, the chain of Hong Kong-style snack shops specializing in eggy waffles. The $3 bowl I ordered at the Outer Sunset branch was heavily dosed with both cornstarch and sesame oil; it was swimming with flecks of pork and chicken, ribbons of black mushroom, and finely julienned wood-ear fungus. The clear gelatin threads of fake fin suspended in the broth, each tapered to mimic the shape of cartilage, looked like the real thing. What my mouth made of them was even more interesting: The firm, jellylike consistency of the gelatin strands combined with the fragile crunch of the wood-ear to mimic two aspects of the marvelous texture of shark's fin. It was like looking through a stereoscope: Intellectually, you know you're looking at two separate, flat photos, but your brain also tells you you're seeing a single three-dimensional image.
Is it 100 percent successful? No. Is it luxurious? Well, no, but neither is canned shark's fin soup. But if you're curious about what the fuss is all about yet don't want to support shark finning (or pay $160 for dinner at Benu), Eggettes' fakery is the one to try.
Benu: 22 Hawthorne (at Howard), 685-4860.
Shangri-La: 2026 Irving (at 21st St.), 731-2548.
Eggettes (Outer Sunset): 3136 Noriega (at 39th Ave.), 681-8818.