Chinese turtle soup
|Main ingredient(s)||Turtle meat|
Turtle soup is soup or stews made from the flesh of the turtle. The dish exists in some cultures and is viewed as a luxury or delicacy. The green turtle was commonly used for turtle soup in the United States. Soup made from the snapping turtle was found mainly in the United States. Chinese and other East Asian cuisines use primarily soft-shelled turtles for turtle soup.
In countries such as Singapore with large Chinese populations, turtle soup is a Chinese delicacy. The meat, skin and innards of the turtle are used in the soup. Soft-shelled turtles (鱉) such as Pelodiscus sinensis are commonly consumed in this manner in Chinese cuisine, while consumption of hard-shelled turtles (龜) is often avoided due to their mythical connotations. However, the hard shells of certain turtles are used in the preparation of so-called "turtle jelly", or Guilinggao.
19th-century American cookbooks advised homemakers that for the best turtle soup one should choose a turtle about 120 pounds (54 kg) in weight, as a smaller one would not have enough fat, and a bigger one would have too strong a flavor.
The snapping turtle was also used in the US, in which case it is commonly referred to as snapper turtle soup, or simply snapper soup (not to be confused with red snapper soup, which is made from the fish called a red snapper).
In many jurisdictions, turtle soup is illegal because many species of turtle are considered threatened or endangered, and cannot legally be captured and killed. Generally speaking, turtle populations cannot quickly recover from the loss of a breeding adult, thus, killing these turtles to make soup can depress populations below sustainable levels.
In the Delaware Valley, snapper soup is available at many area diners. It is a heavy, brown soup that tastes a little like thick gravy. The Philadelphia restaurant Old Original Bookbinder's served Snapper Soup which can also be purchased in cans at supermarkets.
Among Creole communities, Turtle soup is known as Caouane. In New Orleans, it is a specialty of several neighborhood and classic Creole restaurants such as Commander's Palace, Brennan's, and Galatoire's.
The symptoms appear 12 hours after consumption and may include vomiting, dizziness, a burning sensation in the throat, headache, abdominal pain, and occasionally diarrhea. After about two days the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat become swollen, and swallowing is sometimes difficult. The papillae of the tip of the edges of the tongue swell and may remain enlarged for two months. Drowsiness may occur early. The patient may respond when spoken to but rapidly falls asleep again. Other nervous system signs may be present. The severity of the condition can vary depending upon the amount of meat consumed. Mild cases show mouth and throat symptoms while in severe cases central nervous system signs are always present. The patient may remain unconscious for a week or more. The mortality rate in cases which develop central nervous system signs is very high.
According to health authorities there is no known antidote or medicine that can specifically treat chelonitoxism, and children are more susceptible to the effects of the poison.
- Forest Soft-shell Turtle (Dogania subplana), www.science.edu.sg, accessed 6 August 2007.
- Subhuti Dharmananda. "Endangered species issues affecting turtles and tortoises used in Chinese medicine". See in particular APPENDIX 1: "Golden Coin Turtle" (A report dated April 27, 2002 by ECES News (Earth Crash Earth Spirit)), and APPENDIX 3: "Tortoise Jelly (Turtle Jelly)". Quote: "The popularity of turtle jelly can be seen in the success of Ng Yiu-ming. His chain of specialty stores has grown from one shop in 1991 to 68 today, in Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China. Ng also packs turtle jelly into portable containers sold at convenience stores. He insists no golden coin turtles are used. 'They're too expensive' he said. '... [I]f you know how to choose the herbal ingredients, jelly made from other kinds of turtles will be just as good.'"
- Medicinal Turtle Preparation
- Turtle soup recipe in The Household Cyclopedia of General Information (1881)
- Turtle Soup/task/display/itemid/79787/recipeid/79449 Snapper Turtle Soup Recipe
- "US Presidents - William Taft". Retrieved 2008-04-01.
- Arlene Burnett, "Slow food: Turtle soup is a throwback to an earlier elegant time", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 26, 2008
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