The True Origin Story of Mock Turtle Soup

Ser Seng Herbs (Turtle) Restaurant Editor

December 5, 2022

Even the best turtle soup has its mock version. The word “mock” usually implies from the beginning that something is not original. Similar to the word “faux” when it comes to describing certain clothes as being made from “faux leather,” it shows that an item is an imitation or a fake, which typically does not bode well in terms of public perception. However, it certainly does not mean that it is bad in nature.

But why the need for it? For items like clothes, many people opt for fakes because the originals are much too pricey for them and there is no need to spend more on something as simple as an article of clothing. When it comes to food, however, it is a whole different story.

With the rise of vegetarianism in recent times, the trend of mock foods to imitate meat has become widespread. In order to accommodate their diets, vegetarians would choose alternative meats or protein-based food to not only compensate for protein in their food intake, but to satisfy their taste buds as well.

Mock turtle soup is one of the dishes that is an imitation of the original, but its origins are not as simple as a diet choice. Before we delve into why mock turtle soup was created, let us take a quick dive into an overview of turtle soup first.

A Brief Background on Mock Turtle Soup

Popular in the 1700s, turtle soup was a sought-after dish that was favoured by many due to its unique flavours. British sailors would capture sea turtles and keep them as a source of meat onboard in case food runs out or if things went south. Once the sailors completed their voyage, they brought the sea turtles back to England where the rich and the royals would quickly buy them, using them as a show of status at banquets or dinner parties.

This, coupled with the fact that many people were eager to get their hands on them, shot the price of turtle meat up tremendously. According to legitimate sources such as British Food History, up to 15,000 turtles were shipped from the West Indies to England each year. So when high demands could not be met, there had to be another solution.

That is where those of the lower income classes created the imitation of turtle soup recipe as an affordable substitute.

Substitution as a Solution

It was not easy coming up with an imitation of the best turtle soup. Various ingredients were used to capture the unique taste of turtle meat, and chefs experimented with a combination of vegetables and unusual meats like calf’s head or tongues. Some chefs even went as far as to create a green color as to mimic the green hue of turtle meat.

Was it convincing enough? Apparently so. Mock turtle soup has soared in popularity, enough to even have the dish being created in canned versions to further sell it to a wider audience. It was safe to say that mock turtle soup became as popular as the original turtle soup in of itself.

However, all of this circles back to the use of the word “mock,” wherein people would extend their options to  freshwater turtles in order to satisfy their curious appetite. Now, it is widely acknowledged that as a result of this frenzy, the global population of turtles have dropped significantly to the point of extinction.

You can still find a handful of restaurants around the world selling mock turtle soup dishes. However, you will be surprised to know that there are restaurants out there that sell the original stuff! There are famous turtle soup restaurants in Singapore, China, Taiwan, and more.

As per traditional cuisine, restaurants such as Ser Seng Turtle Soup are some of the best of what they do. As one of the most famous turtle soup restaurants in Singapore, they are the best experts when it comes to bringing out the delicious flavors of turtle in their soup dishes.

Come down to Ser Seng Turtle Soup to have a sip of this historical dish!

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