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Shark’s Fin and Prawn Dumpling in Superior Soup is one of the famous Dim Sum in Hong Kong.
Origin and History
A cookbook called Suiyuan shidan, published by Yuan Mei in Qing dynasty, has mentioned that “顛不棱即肉餃也，糊面推開，裹肉為餡蒸之。其討好處全在作餡得法，不過肉嫩去筋作料而已。餘到廣東，吃官鎮台顛不棱，甚佳，中用肉皮煨膏為餡，故覺軟美。”, which means what Dumpling in Soup is and how it is produced. In fact, Dumpling in Superior Soup originated from Ming dynasty in Yangzhou. In that time, people would like to use pigskin as an ingredient of brewis. As pigskin is composed of collagen which is a main component of connective tissue, brewis would be solidified after it was dissolved, forming a gel-like structure. It would then be integrated into bread for consumption. That is the ancestral form of Dumpling in Superior Soup. However, the use of Shark’s Fin as an ingredient of dumpling appeared until 1980s when Hong Kong economy is growing rapidly. Part of the Chinese restaurants would like to produce something luxury so as to emphasize the class difference or attract consumers. As time goes by, a true Shark’s Fin may no longer exist or be replaced by thin bean noodle.
Skin: flour50g, egg20g, water7g. Stuffing: Meirou 1tael, shrimp 2Taels, one or two crab sticks, appropriate amount of shark fin, 2 Shiitake mushrooms and several straw mushrooms. Seasoning: 1/2teaspoon salt, 1/4teaspoon MSG, 1/4teaspoon sugar, ground white pepper, right amount of meal-cake.
Agar preparation (formation of a gel-like substance) Red algae are first softened by adding water to it. After a couple of time, it is steamed until the red algae disappeared and all suspended particles are filtered out. Keep it at room temperature until it is solidified. Water can be replaced by superior soup Flavor Stuff is mixed with seasoning mentioned above. However, the type of stuff depends on what consumers like. There is no limitation what have to be included actually. Dumpling Agar is added to the mixture in the ratio 1 : 1. It is then integrated into the skin prepared and steamed for about 2 minute in order to keep its shape. After that, it can be put into a bowl and soup is added. Further steaming about 5 - 15 minute is required. However, a traditional dumpling in soup should not be soaked in soup. Those common one found in restaurant are due to the improvement or convenience.
As one of 8 delicacies in China, shark’s fin represents a luxury item for high social class in China. Due to its rarity, it has been considered as symbols as power and wealth. However, raw shark’s fin has no taste. Shark’s fin soup tastes great but the just the fin does not have specific taste. This can be interpreted that nobles or high class people wanted to show off their wealthy by having rare and precious foods. Nowadays, the price of shark’s fin soup varies. Mock shark’s fin soup is quite cheap compared to the real one. The meaning of shark’s fin soup as a representation of social status has been reduced a lot but it is still a gourmet meal.
Old Chinese medical books said that shark’s fins helps in areas of rejuvenation, appetite enhancement and blood nourishment, beneficial to vital energy, kidneys, lungs, bones and many other parts of the body. It emphasizes that people considered shark’s fin more than a food ingredient. There is no significant difference between original and present cooking method. Since Hong Kong people respect traditional value like celebrating mid autumn festival, Lunar New Year and following some conventional rules, they are more likely to learn from traditional experiences and inherit them. While maintaining traditional way, people have developed different types of shark’s fin soup. There are diverse types depending on customers’ wants. As shark’s fin has become a serious environmental problem, vermicelli is used instead of the fin. (Diversity) It also can be applied to adaptability, which have mentioned in ‘Omnivore’s Paradox’, that “He can survive the disappearance of the species on which he previously fed; he can move about, change his ecosystem”.
The current Shark's Fin & Prawn Dumpling with new ingredient
Nowadays, some of Dim Sum chiefs use bean vermicelli instead of shark fin because of environmentally friendly. Also, Since Hong Kong people like trying new things, the Hong Kong chiefs have tried to add new element to the food. Therefore, shark’s Fin & Prawn Dumpling has difference type of ingredient to go along Hong Kongers’ taste. The following ingredients show the Hong Kong identities of creativity and innovativity on different aspect.
1. Green Shark's Fin & Prawn Dumpling(翡翠魚翅灌湯餃)
This shark’s fin &prawn dumpling is green in color. It’s because its skin is mixed with vegetable juice during the cooking so that it has a green color. As a result, customers may taste a fresh dumpling skin. With this special appearance, this shark’s Fin & Prawn Dumpling can attract those customers like trying new things.
2. Vegetarian Shark's Fin & Prawn Dumpling (素翅灌湯餃)
Nowadays, Hong Kongers are more environmental friendly. Therefore, some of the restaurants use ’fake shark’s fin’ to replace the shark’s fin to avoid killing sharks in order to protest this species. The ’fake shark’s fin’ is mainly made of Gelatin or Konjac, some of them may be made of the bean vermicelli. Since it does not include any animal’s ingredients, it is also suitable for vegetarian. Other than that, it is cheaper than shark’s fin; the production cost can be lower. Therefore, this shark’s fin & prawn dumpling is one of example of adaptability.
3. Shark's Fin & Prawn Dumpling with Bamboo Pith(竹笙魚翅灌湯餃)
This kinds of shark's fin &prawn dumpling emphasizes the bamboo pith. The bamboo pith has a high nutrition which contains over 15% of protein content,includes21 kinds of amino acid and eight of them are essential to human. Other than that, the digestible rate isover80% which is higher than any other vegetable, but also rich in the vitamin A, B, D, E and other minerals. Not only nourishing the body, it regulates the body's metabolism. It also has a good therapeutic effect on some diseases such as high blood pressure,high cholesterol. Therefore, this can meet the demand of healthy food and become one of the examples of health dim sum.
4. Shark's Fin & Prawn Dumpling with crab-meat (蟹肉魚翅灌湯餃)
Normally, shark's fin &prawn use crab stickers as filling. However, some of restaurants want to make it more luxury and naturally, they replace the crab sticks by the real crab-meat. This can make be more high-born and precious.
To compare the selling place from the past to nowadays
According to an online dining guide, there are more than 30 restaurants selling shark's fin & prawn dumpling today. Some of them are dim sum restaurants, some of them are normal Chinese restaurants and some of them are take-away stores or supermarkets sell as frozen food. There are some changes from the past to nowadays. It seems that Mcdonalization appear in Dim Sum culture as well and thus a large amount of Dim Sum Take-away store (e.g.點心王) are opened.
In the past, shark's fin &prawn dumpling is a luxury dim sum, only few of the dim sum restaurants may have this dish. These restaurants used expensive materials to make filling like plenty of shark’s fin, chicken shreds, Shiitake mushrooms, prawn, pork, etc.Also, the cooking method is more tradition as the soup is filled in dumpling and streamed in a bamboo steamer.Therefore,it took a longer time to cook. There is only one cooking method and fewer chiefs know how to make.
Nowadays, the society becomes more prosperous and people are wealthy to afford the luxury dishes. Other than that, because of the growing competition in catering industry, the dim sum restaurants need to create more kinds of dishes and change their operation practices to meet Hong Kongers’ appetite. For example, there are differences kinds of shark's fin & prawn dumpling to meet differences customers like vegetarian. Also, there are some take-away stores selling take away dim sum to those customers in carry, and the supermarkets selling frozen shark's fin & prawn dumpling to make it more popular. In addition, the shark's fin & prawn dumpling’s filling has changed a lot. There is reduction in the filling and the raw materials are cheaper. For example, the chicken shreds replaced by the ham shreds, the prawn replaced by dried shrimps, the amount of shark’s fin, Shiitake mushrooms. The cooking method also change from soup is filled in dumpling to put the dumpling in the soup.
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