I was traveling through the city of Hat Yai, Thailand a couple summers ago. Hat Yai is a culinary crossroads between Muslim Chinese, Malaysian Chinese, Malay and Thai cooking. It's also next to the coast (as is everywhere in Thailand). The seafood is incredible.
In the "Chinatown" district of this city there were rows upon rows of tiny hole-in-the-walls proudly advertising in English "Shark's Fin Soup."This struck me as weird because a) nothing else in the whole city was in English and b) I figured the market for this dish was only chowhounds and Chinese.
Ignoring the PC policeman, I sat down to a bowl.
It was served in a scalding, hot iron bowl which came from a four foot wide iron cauldron tended by the ancient Chinese matriarch of this establishment.
The broth was a dark brown, very rich seafood stock. It tasted crabby but more gamey. If you can imagine it, it's a deep sea demi-glace taste. Strong stuff. The shark's fin are actually extremely tender filaments of meat that resemble the gills of mushrooms. The texture is weird. It's like fish shavings that melt in your mouth. Delicious!
I have never seen the dish in the States. I think it's banned for eco reasons in other countries as well.
I hate to admit it but if I ever go back to Hat Yai, I am going to eat another bowl. Am I going to hell for this? Does severe chowhounding have Karmic repercussions? Or are we excused because we have a disease of sorts?
I am worried about hell. Hell has a grade school cafeteria. Hell hath only one supplier - Cisco. Hell serves the same dish every day, every meal till eternity. And that dish is Manicotti.