At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Over the weekend I saw an article about a bunch of LGBT activists who harass sellers and purchasers of live fowl down at the Civic Center farmers market on Wednesdays and Sundays.
They are appalled that living animals are sold. Why can't 'those people' buy old dead grey supermarket spongy meat like everybody else!?!

It struck me that objecting to the culinary customs of Asians is a very white thing to do.
As well as very Californian.

Years ago I remember protestors outside a Chinatown food emporium screaming in outrage because live animals were being sold there. They were really upset that Chinese people eat animals. One woman got into an argument with a customer and started yelling about “barbaric f*&^ing foreigners”, and how everybody should act American.
It was, of course, typically San Franciscan.

There have been other protests against Chinese habits. Many activists genuinely cannot understand why being offensive, and insulting other people, can actually be considered offensive and insulting.

It's sincere! And for a good cause!

The self-appointed guardians of the Great White Way love their less-than-white fellow-Americans.
Right up to the point where 'those people' stop acknowledging superiority.


In that vein, there are a huge number of comments on various internet fora discussing the proposed ban on the sale and distribution of shark fin in California that demonstrate a certain level of arrogance.
Bigotry, even. And outright cultural hatred.

Until I read the rhetoric which many concerned San Franciscans had spewn, I too was somewhat opposed to sharkfin soup.
It has its place, but certain practices definitely need to be limited.


After reading the bile of a whole bunch of pissant swine on the internet, however, and their flagrant racist venom towards State Senator Leland Yee, I would rather that sharks go completely extinct than that such a bunch of snobby, snotty, blinkered, intolerant, stiff-arsed hatefilled self-righteous puss-barfing bigoted cretins succeed in getting sharkfin soup banned.

Follow two recipes, both delicious.

1. 蟹肉把翅 - 'Crab Meat Clutched Fin' (hai yiuk pa chi): Braised sharkfin with crab meat sauce in thick soup. A simple classic preparation.
2. 錦繡海上鮮 - 'Brocade Embroidery Upon Ocean Freshness' (gam sau hoi seung sien): Sharkfin in assorted seafood soup with fish meat, crab, shrimp, clams, bamboo shoots, black mushrooms, etcetera.

[Enough for a party of four to six people.]

One cup soaked shark fin.
Half cup crab meat.
Quarter cup sherry.
Two scallion.
Two slices ginger.
Two TBS oil.
One TBS soy sauce.
Six cups superior stock.
Pinch of sugar.
Pinch of ground white pepper.

A little cornstarch water, rendered chicken fat.

Simmer shark fin in two cups stock with one scallion and one slice ginger for an hour. Drain, discard liquid, ginger, scallion.

Heat the oil at the bottom of a soup pot, sauté the remaining scallion and ginger a few seconds, enough to temper the oil, then remove. Add the crab meat, stir around briefly, sizzle with sherry.
Pour in the remaining four cups of stock, soy sauce, sugar, pepper. Bring to a boil, add the shark fin, turn low and simmer for about ten minutes.
Thicken with a little cornstarch water, add a little chicken fat for glossiness and flavour.

Note: this soup can be frozen with little loss of quality. But there probably won't be any left, even if there's only two of you at the table.

[Enough for a party of six to eight people.]

Half cup soaked sharkfin.
Half cup cooked crab.
Half cup peeled fresh shrimp.
Half cup chopped white-fleshed fish.
Quarter cup soaked sea cucumber, sliced.
Quarter cup bamboo shoot, sliced.
Quarter cup soaked black mushroom, sliced.
A dozen little clams, shelled (optional - I leave them out).
Three large conpoy.
One scallion, coarse cut.
A little sliced ginger.
Two to four TBS sherry.
Six cups superior stock.
Pinch of sugar.
One egg-white, beaten.

A little cornstarch water, rendered chicken fat.

Marinate the fish and shrimp in one tablespoon cornstarch whisked with one tablespoon sherry and an eggwhite for half an hour. Meanwhile steam the soaked sharkfin and conpoy until the conpoy can be pulled apart into shreds.

Heat oil, sauté scallion and ginger. Sizzle with sherry, add the stock, bring to a boil. Add the sharkfin, crab, sea -cucumber, bamboo shoots and black mushrooms, bring back to a boil, add the fish, shrimp and shredded conpoy, raise back to a boil. Stir-in a little cornstarch water to velvetize, along with the rendered chicken fat, and while stirring drizzle in the beaten egg white to form thin whisps.


To prepare sharkfin for the table, you must start several days ahead. Soak it in several changes of water for three days. Then simmer it on very low heat for two or three hours, with some ginger and scallion. Drain, discard the ginger and scallion, and rinse the fin. Now peel off the skin and remove the bone in the centre. Simmer again for two or three hours in a mixture of water and stock, with ginger and scallion. Drain, rinse, repeat.
At this point is should be ready for pre-cooking: immerse in stock with ricewine or sherry, plus ginger and scallion. Simmer for half an hour or so, then drain and rinse again.
At this point you can use it in the recipes.

There are stores where you can buy fabulously clean sharkfin which requires far less effort. Ask the shopkeeper for instructions and pointers, because he or she probably knows best how to deal with the product.

Recently I was at one such shop, which had several absolutely beautiful fins, lordy my mouth just watered at the sight. I ended up purchasing more stuff there than I had originally gone in to get. It's a lovely shop - warm and inviting, with friendly knowledgeable owners.

No, shan't mention the name or address of the business. Don't want a bunch of ever-so-superior middle-class know-it-alls outside raising a ruckus.

Notes: Black mushrooms (香菇 heung gu) need about half an hour of soaking before use. The soaking liquid can be added to the soup.
Conpoy (乾貝) is dried scallop, widely available in Chinatown. It is worth buying good quality conpoy, large ones with a bright hue and sharp edges. Conpoy is also called 乾瑤柱 (gon yiu chyu - 'dried jade supports') and 江瑤柱 (gong yiu chyu - 'river jade supports').
In addition to banquet preparations, it can be used in many simpler dishes for a texturally interesting seafood note. It is likewise very delicious in congee.
And it probably also irritates some people, just like everything else.

* * * * * * * *

BTW, there’s a previous post with a shark fin soup recipe here:
I also mention bird's nest and sea cucumber in
that post, but the recipe is the real reason to read it. It's one of my all-time favourite dishes, one which I do particularly well. And it's so easy!
Your feedback will be keenly appreciated.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:

All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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  • At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Neige seiyan tou! said…

    Looks like whitey is full of shit again, casting aspersions when they themselves are co-responsible.

    THIS PARAGRAPH: "A third of all fins imported to Hong Kong come from Europe. Spain is by far the largest supplier, providing between 2,000 and 5,000 metric tonnes a year. Norway supplies 39 metric tonnes, but Britain, France, Portugal and Italy are also major suppliers.

    Hong Kong handles at least 50% and possibly up to 80% of the world trade in shark fin, with the major suppliers being Europe, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen, India, Japan, and Mexico.

    Spain=white. Norway=white. Britain=white. France=white. Portugal=white. Italy=white.
    And as far as I know, the United Arab Emirates are not Chinese. Nor are Yemen, India, Japan, and Mexico.
    The United States is overwhelmingly not Chinese either. Sadly.

  • At 5:33 PM, Blogger Sea Steward said…

    As one of the Bill Sponsors and someone who has met and discussed this with Mr Yee, I find him civil, intelligent and dead wrong on this issue. This is not about race. It is about ocean sustainability.

  • At 5:54 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    My dear Sea Steward,

    Would that half of his critics could be similarly described. The comments underneath the article on SF Gate, however, demonstrate a level of racialism which heretofore I had thought antiquated and passé. And please bear in mind that SF Gate does remove comments which are too egregious – many other sites do not do so.

    It is the nauseating bigotry that floats to the surface that galls me. Far more than the issue itself.
    You may judge people by their friends – and if the friends of shark-conservation are appalling racists, that says far more than any public statement. That says that political correct thinking has become a cover for repulsive human swine. That says that verbal bludgeoning has taken the place of civil discourse and education.

    It should not be about race. It should be about ocean sustainability. But until I stop hearing and reading repulsive remarks by people who mistakenly believe themselves superior, I will doubt.

    Non-Asians should not dictate what Asians can eat. Either we have the consent of the governed, or we are a tyranny. And given that there are many food-related issues, such as the American Beef Industry and its vile practices, the chicken-ranches and their disgusting conditions, and the pollution which all politicians happily overlook, it may seem to some people that an anti-sharkfin soup law is singling the Asian-Americans out.
    That, to a large extent, is what middle-class white people criticizing the culinary habits of others always looks like to me in any case - I spent many years working in the food-industry. In that time I heard so many bigoted praeconceptions and downright nonsensical statements about non-Wasp foods that I cannot believe that even a slim majority of commenters out there even know what the heck they are talking about, though they of course believe otherwise.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinions. But most opinions are wrong. Especially when it comes to outsiders talking about food. That they might exceptionally be right about shark fins does not diminish the fact that they’re spewing stupidity, and demonstrating a sense of racial superiority.

  • At 5:58 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    That being said, I can respect that you believe him dead wrong on the issue.

    On this particular issue, he may indeed be dead wrong.

  • At 5:05 PM, Anonymous shark souper said…

    It was up to conservationists to frame this law so it could not be attacked as being racist.

    Mandatory DNA testing for instance on shark fin to weed out red list species and endangered species might have made a difference. Both are known to be traded and served in shark fin soup and would make the process so costly that it would be prohibitive.

    Try arguing that.

    Instead this has devolved to feature Yee as the new shark soup and culture guardian.

    Hey, the man wants to be SF Mayor, not his fault this landed on his table, but he's enjoying the carving process.

    There's too much at stake to have this initiative fail, so brace yourself, this is going to get interesting.

  • At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh please, fuck ocean sustainability. Sharks are predators - what the fuck eats a shark in the ocean?

    Fuck sustainability. Fuck the whole green movement bullshit and for fuck's sake, fuck the organic nonsense as well.

    Eat people, eat! If our species dies out because we took out every shark alive for delicious shark fin fucking be it.


  • At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If I find you, I'll kill you. Set an example of your shark fin soup eating whore mouth.

  • At 3:33 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Good neige luck, sei pok-kai!

  • At 3:33 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Mmmm, yummy! So very very DELICIOUS!

  • At 4:00 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Please note - new shark fin post:

    Mmmm, delicious shark fin!

  • At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.

    Fuck you.

  • At 6:16 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    To the anonymous commenter at 7:03 AM, please note:!

    Another wonderful pro-sharkfin soup article. Yum!

  • At 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    fuck you, eat your sharkfin soup like the sick savage fuck you are. Fucking psychopath piece of shit. You lack empathy, you dont deserve to be treated with empathy from others. Fuck you.

  • At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Homer Simpson said…

    Oh dear, have you just had another problem expressing yourself?
    Whazza matter, someone break your blinky toy?
    Momma told you to take a time out?

    Oh you poor sweet baby!
    So coarse-mouthed and ineloquent!
    No wonder the world doesn’t particularly appreciate you, your kind, and your self-righteous sanctimony.

    Please, go occupy Wall Street somewhere.
    Make yourself a speedbump.
    Be useful.

    Mmmmm, sharkfin!

  • At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No one eats fucking yellow swine.

  • At 4:26 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Yo, Anonymous at 1:57 PM,

    Your mother was a hamster, and your father smells of... elderberries!

  • At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


  • At 2:19 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Hey anonymous at 4:33,

    You are proof of the ill-effects of inbreeding.

    Your gene pool become a puddle several generations ago.

    Please go back to fondling your sister.

    Thank you.

  • At 1:30 PM, Anonymous You're mother! said…

    Dog eating Chink fucker.

    Hope youdie!


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