Image credit: @sifu_renka.
When British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay tasted shark fin soup for the first time, he was shocked at how tasteless the fin was, remarking that “you could put anything in [the broth]”. Now, it seems, restaurants across China are doing just that.
An investigative report by CCTV Focus, broadcast earlier this week, revealed that restaurants in Beijing, Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Fujian (and presumably elsewhere) are serving artificial ‘shark fins’ made from mung bean starch, gelatine, sodium, and a host of assorted chemicals which give the substance the shark fin’s characteristic mucilaginous texture.
Shark fin soup, likes birds nest soup, is a high-end, expensive dish typically served to impress or on special occasions. A Zhejiang, Xanadu, sells fake shark fin soup for 150 yuan, at a cost of about 5 yuan to the restaurant, according to CCTV’s report.
CCTV estimates that up to 40 per cent of the shark fins consumed in mainland China could be fake. While its bad enough that restaurants are serving sub-par ingredients at premium prices, the chemicals used to create the shanzai shark fins are often poisonous and could damage the eater’s lungs and other organs.
The best reaction to the scandal comes from a Weibo post spotted by SCMP’s Amy Li, “It’s the corrupt officials who eat shark fins, right? Fair world after all.”
The practice of passing off inferior or fake foods as their superior, more expensive counterparts isn’t limited to China. American readers that haven’t been to Japan have never actually eaten Kobe beef, no matter how much you paid. Sushi restaurants regularly serve mislabelled (and therefore incorrectly priced) fish, and expensive wine is the biggest scam of all.