Back when I was a kid, attending wedding banquets and fancy Chinese dinners usually meant putting on my best dress, sitting with strange people for three hours and eating shark's fin soup. The soup, a gluey concoction of mostly starch and water with some crab meat and real shark's fin dispersed in it, was more or less a standard item on the menu at every respectable fancy Chinese dinner I went to. I always add a huge dollop of black rice vinegar to it, because the soup by itself is actually quite tasteless. It was more like a vinegar kick for me each time.
|Shark's fin soup. The dark color is usually because of added black rice vinegar, which provides most of the taste. Image obtained from Wikipedia Commons, by harmon from Austin, TX (shark's fin soup, uploaded by Caspian blue)|
|Cucurbita ficifolia, or shark's fin melon, spaghetti squash and figleaf gourd. It has a texture very, very similar to that of shark's fin, except it also has a subtle sweetness to it. Image from Wikipedia Commons.|