What is turtle soup?
Fresh (soft-shell) turtle meat is the key ingredient in the traditional turtle soup. Turtle meat is brewed in a mixture of Chinese herbs till the essence of the herbs is immersed in the turtle meat for the ultimate taste. The choice of herbs is up to the individual.
Besides the benefits found in the turtle meat itself, the dish can be prepared in many other ways to suit the palate of the young and the old, just as in the preparation of any meat dish. It can be made in soup, fried, steamed, braised, etc. Traditionally, turtle meat is used in soup dishes to preserve the goodness of the turtle meat within the soup so that our bodies can absorb the nutrients easily.
Origins of turtle soup in Singapore
Turtle soup has existed in Singapore for over 50 years! The soup itself can be traced to the ancient days of imperial China. The Chinese believed in the benefits of (soft-shell) turtle meat, especially in the rear soft-shell of the carapace which is a dense collection of collagen. These were recorded in ancient medical books such as <ben cao gang mu>. Medical books even had records of treatment for specific illness using (soft-shell) turtle meat and the soft perimeter of the carapace.
The receipe was probably brought into Singapore together with the migration wave in the early 1990s. As it was in the olden days, the main consumers of turtle soup in Singapore today are still the common folks. This soup meal is thus still sold mainly in the hawker centres and eating-houses, within reach of many. As such, it is common to see well-dressed office-attired customers tucking away at a delicious bowl of turtle soup in the eating-houses, as well as Mercedes-driving towkays, and ordinary Joes.
Turtle dishes in other parts of Asia
In Asia, turtle meat dishes can also be found in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and China. Following are some of the common ways that turtle meat is served:
- Singapore and Hong Kong: consumers prefer to have it double-boiled or stewed in soup.
- Japan: mainly as a delicacy item for steamboat. Once it is a little cooked, the turtle meat is dapped in some wasabi (horse radish) and soya sauce before eating.
- Korea: mainly in soup too.
- China: The preference may differ a little between provinces, but turtle meat is commonly fried, steamed or part of a steamboat offering.
Existing source of turtle meat
In Singapore, we are fortunate to be able to enjoy turtle meat dishes at low prices, due to our proximity to Indonesia – the primary source of live turtles for the Singapore market.
For many years, consumers in Singapore had enjoyed turtle soup made from turtles caught from the wild from Indonesia, and in recent years, captive-bred ones. Meat from wild turtles is a little firm, somewhere between that of poultry and fish. The rear soft-shell of the carapace of the wild turtle is also very thick. The rear soft-shell of the carapace of the soft-shell turtle is a dense collection of collagen, and thus is one of the prized parts of the whole turtle. A good bowl of turtle soup will leave the customer feeling a little sticky on the lips, and that is due to the collagen from the turtle.
Future source of turtle meat – 3G turtle
Tridelta Food had also gone to the farms around the region to source for the best turtles, namely Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and China. Through experiments, we have found that the live turtles from China suit the Singaporean palate best.
Turtle farming is a big industry in China. This is not surprising for a country where the consumption of turtles is estimated to be between 130,000 – 150,000 tons per year (in comparison, Singapore’s consumption is estimated at 200 tons per year). However, only a handful of the farms are qualified to export their produce. This is due to the steep health requirements imposed by the China authorities.
The farms we finally decided to work with produce 3rd generation turtles (“3G turtles”). The key property of “3G turtles” is the quality of the meat. The meat is dense, like wild-grown turtles – an indicator that the turtle was not fed steroids for quick growth. This is especially evident in the rear soft-shell of the carapace, which is also thick. The bred turtles from all our chosen farms in China had been certified by the local authorities to be free of harmful chemical/steroids residues. This certification is coveted by many and difficult to obtain. This distinction in quality between 2nd and 3rd generation turtles, and the achievement of certification are key reasons in the wide difference in pricing of live turtles in the China market. We understand that even the locals are wary of buying the “normal” turtles for fear of chemical residues in the turtles.
A source of turtle meat fit for consumption!
Tridelta Food Pte Ltd is the largest distributor of fresh turtle meat in Singapore. Only freshwater softshell turtles are used. We were also Singapore’s only HACCP-certified turtle slaughterhouse, and the 1st formally constructed turtle slaughterhouse in Singapore. We import live soft-shell turtles and process them in the slaughterhouse before delivering them to our customers. Each turtle is neatly cut up to make it easy for our customers to handle and cook in the hawker stalls and eating-houses.
Consumers in Singapore can be assured that the turtle meat supplied by Tridelta Food is delicious and fit for consumption due to the controls and responsibilities that we have put on ourselves.
About HACCP Certification
HACCP is a quality assurance tool that has been specifically developed for the food industry to enable management to achieve food safety all the way from “the farm to the fork”. It ensures food safety through biological, chemical and physical hazard identification and control in the production process. The process of getting HACCP-certified is rigorous enough to make any food manufacturer look in detail their whole manufacturing process to ensure food safety.