Friday, April 29, 2011
Nichirei Cantonese Shark Fin Soup
Sometimes I wonder how it comes to pass that people decide that a particular part of an animal is a good thing to eat. Back when the recipes were originally created, I guess they were just trying to scavenge anything edible from whatever carcass was at hand. If they caught a shark, they probably ate every scrap of it and convinced themselves that it was good and good for them ("shark scrotum tastes like a monkey's behind smells, but it enhances virility!").
Now that we have the luxury of leaving behind the less juicy and delicious parts of animals, it would seem that inertia drives the valuation of the less savory parts. I realize that it is also possible that people feel that it is conservation, but I've seen too many people turn up their noses at the idea of leftovers the third day after a meal (the Japanese are generally not big on leftovers) to think they want to use every scrap of the animal. Shark fin soup is supposed to increase sexual potency, but actually causes sterility if consumed in large quantities. It also is supposed to be pretty healthy, but isn't as good for you as vegetable soup.
This package of prepared shark fin soup comes to me not of my own volition, but through my New Year's fukubukuro (lucky bag). It's going to take me about half a year to get through reviewing all of the items in those bags. It means I should seriously reconsider whether I should keep buying them, especially from supermarkets which give you a lot of items. On the one hand, I like the surprise. On the other hand, It's late April and I'm far from finished with the products I got!
I prepared this soup exactly as instructed, adding in 2 cups (500 ml.) of water, squeezing in the unappetizing-looking brown goo in the foil packet, simmering it for about 7 minutes and then sending in a stream of egg and allowing it to cook. It smelled very familiar, like mixes of Chinese-style food that I've had in Japan in the distant past. My main concerns with this was that it would be too salty and too thin on flavor, especially at only 44 calories per serving (not including the egg, which one must provide for oneself).
It turned out that the soup has a deep savory flavor which includes a heavy chicken component. This isn't surprising since there is chicken bouillon and extract listed twice in the ingredients list. There are also little slices of mushroom, but they mainly lend texture rather than flavor. Soy sauce and Chinese spices round out the flavor profile. This doesn't taste overly salty, in fact, it's close to being just about right, but it has 3.2 grams of salt per serving (1/4 of the package). Considering that the average adult is recommended to consume about 6 grams total, that's a lot for a small bowl of soup.
This is one of the tastiest types of packaged soup I've had. I make my own soup several times a week, so gaining my approval isn't all that easy. Even my husband, who is a fussy eater, liked it enough to say he'd have it again if the price isn't ridiculously out of line with the volume (something we can't know since I didn't buy it as an individual item). The company that makes this, Nichirei, has now hit its second home run with me with its packaged food. The first thing I sampled from them was its imagawayaki offering, and I loved it. If you're looking for a quick and tasty soup to augment your meal, I'd definitely recommend trying this out if you have no or few concerns about salt consumption.