Shark fin soup for the soul

I ate shark fin soup today. Boy, do I feel like a right bastard for contributing towards the extinction of an endangered species.

See those pinkish chunks floating in the soup? Those are pieces of shark fin. It’s scant in its presence as this a ‘mass-market’ version; gourmet shark fin soup costs a bomb (~$100, I’ve heard) and comes with sizeable cartilaginous chunks of shark fin.

Shark fin itself apparently has no taste, and it takes the flavour of whatever broth it is in. Most often the broth is chicken soup, as it was here. I didn’t know what to expect when I placed my order, so I requested for an extra helping of vegetables to mellow down the taste. Shark fin is…chewy – and in my case tasted like chicken since that was what the stock was.

Those of you who know me would know I’ve been a vegetarian for many years now. Vegetarianism is a personal choice I made arising out of taste rather than any religious or ethical compunctions. All that has gone for a toss here in Singapore though since you’ll be hard-pressed to find vegetarian eating options here!

(Do you ‘eat’ soup or ‘drink’ soup? The consensus seems to be that if the soup contains solids such as croutons then the verb is ‘eat’, otherwise ‘drink’ for light broths. I think when the words ‘shark fin’ precede the word ‘soup’, the verb should most definitely be ‘eat’.)

Clockwise from lower left: Crispy biscuit, egg-and-seaweed fold, sandwich biscuit, chin chow drink, shark fin soup

I also had an egg-and-seaweed fold in the same meal – it’s a dish that roughly has the consistency of a dumpling on the outside, with a filling of puffy egg whites and seaweed strands. ‘Crispy biscuit’ is akin to a poppadum, coated in yoghurt-based dressing; ‘sandwich biscuit’ is a slice of pie stuffed with mashed potato. By the end of my meal, I realized that I had ordered too much food.

Picture courtesy Sjschen
Blocks of grass jelly

The drink that you see in the picture above is ‘Chin Chow drink’. I asked the cashier/server at the (separate) place I bought the drink as to what was in it. He just smiled enigmatically, gave me back my change, and called another woman at the shop who gestured towards the crushed ice and said, “It taste better when ice bottom.”

I later found out ‘chin chow’ is the Chinese name for grass jelly – made from the leaves of a mint-family plant. When you order a ‘chin chow drink’, you get blocks of grass jelly mixed with black, minty tasting liquid with crushed ice on top.

I got more than my money’s worth out of the meal (cheap and filling at S$4.50) but the item that piqued my interest when I saw it on the menu – the shark fin soup – didn’t make a distinct impression on me except for hurting my conscience. Maybe this tasted like nothing more than chicken soup because it’s cheap shit. Maybe some day – when my conscience has recovered, and my wallet is thicker – I’ll try ‘real’ shark fin soup.


I went to the Fairprice Xtra superstore at Jurong Point Shopping Centre to stock up on breakfast cereals and snacks. I consider myself to be good Samaritan, so when I noticed an unattended package lying at the checkout counter I pointed it out to the checkout counter lady (‘CCL’ in the conversation below).

Me: Ahem. It’s seems someone forgot their groceries here.

CCL: That belong to you.

Me: Really?! Are you sure?

CCL: [points to the entry ‘Pringles x 2’ on my bill, out of around just six items] This. Belong. To. You.

(She probably wasn’t trying to be sarcastic with the emphasis. Probably. I like to think it was because she had difficulty speaking in English.)

Me: Ah. Yes.

Being a checkout counter employee at a superstore must require patience than a hostage negotiator does.


The Child of Satan, complementary meals, and alcohol-fuelled ‘blanket offers’

I know a guy a university who survived for one week with nothing other than a fridge shelf stacked with Stella, a bottle of ketchup, and approximately 167 grams of butter.

University student's fridge sheld packed with Stella Artois beer cans

You don’t think I make up the shit that I say on my blog, do you?


Unrelated-but-epic. (via)


After a brief hiatus (and a random blog post start) to visit relatives, I am back in New Delhi. I’d just sat down to do research for an intra-school quiz (at my alma mater) that was supposed to happen over the next three days when I received a phone call saying it has been cancelled due to “Independence Day celebrations“. Huh.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter would have caught some of my anecdotes when travelling by train to/fro my relatives’ pad. There’s a lot more to tell about that than can fit into 140 characters, so for the sake of completeness I’ll recount them here along with additional never-told-before bits (which you can read exclusively on this blog).

For starters, when you’re welcomed on-board the Rajdhani Express, you’re informed that…

If you want to find out the coast of food items, please contact the stoff of Rajdhani Express, they’ll give you a mean-u card.

I can confirm that coast is, indeed, extensive but you need not fret, since this additional coast is only if you want anything other than the complementary meals that you get. Which brings me to the…

…complementary meals that you get on Rajdhani Express. It’s no secret – as I have often insisted with everyone that I have ever met – that I’m a vegetarian and I can’t eat spicy food. Thus whenever I travel by train, I opt for the ‘continental’ meal option instead of the usual Indian vegetarian fare.

It’s an interesting meal, this ‘continental’ one. I don’t know which continent they’ve sourced the recipes from; gastronomic delights from the far-away lands of Europe they are certainly not. The most interesting dish they serve in this uncooked spaghetti in tomato ketchup with huge uncooked, slightly fried slabs of paneer except that instead of paneer they give a thick, damp piece of cardboard instead. You also get boiled peas mixed with carrot chunks and two untoasted slices of crumbling bread. Yummy…NOT! At least the ice cream is edible.


Having travelled by Rajdhani Express numerous times, it came as a mild shock to me when I found out on this trip that only trains from Delhi to other cities can get this name. The ‘Rajdhani’ in the title should have been a sufficient clue.


I’ve never been able to sleep on trains; the gentle rocking motion always keeps me awake. On longer train journeys that take a day or more always I have to figure out what to do for hours when everyone is lying in their beds and sleeping. I mostly read books on my laptop (bejaysus, they have power points on trains now) or play games on my cellphone. This gives me an opportunity to observe the mild insanity that goes on in trains at night.

Exhibit A: On my way back to Delhi, I was reading The Bourne Ultimatum when a visibly sloshed guy plopped down on Mom’s bunk below mine. When I slapped him on the back of his head and asked him WTF he thought he was doing, he got up, apologised, picked up a spare blanket lying on the table, woke the guy who was sleeping in a nearby bunk and offered the blanket to him, and on his generous offer being turned down wore somebody else’s slippers and walked off in a direction opposite to where his bunk was.

Exhibit B: Creepiest fucking little kid straight out of The Omen. Way past midnight, some kid starts strolling up and down the hallway and then after a while, stands in front of my bunk and just stands there staring at me for the better part of half an hour.

I was this close to freaking out and firing up Notepad++ to write out my will (I need to bequeath this blog to someone) when the Child of Satan turned and walked out of my life.