Years back, a supermarket in my neighborhood sold "crabmeat" that posed as the real thing but was impossibly cheap, rubbery in texture, and oddly, artificially sweet. This was a product manufactured from pulverized fish, of course, and nowadays on similar packages the word "imitation" is stamped on the label, too. (I couldn't tell you if the taste has improved.)
More recently, my dining buddies and I have encountered "shark's fin soup" that, to judge by its low price, could not possibly have contained any fin. Perhaps the soup's Chinese name has always made this clear, but English speakers might still be alarmed at the prospect. Although many traditional recipes, in Southeast Asia, in the Caribbean, and elsewhere, embrace fuller use of the shark, all too often the fins alone are wantonly and wastefully harvested, and the definned shark is tossed back into the sea, where it drowns.
For an imitation shark's fin soup, the name "finny soup" is attributed at least as early as 2006 (though 2012 was the first I'd seen it in public). In lieu of the cartilaginous fin, which has virtually no flavor of its own, gelatin, egg, vermicelli, or some combination of similar ingredients are used to mimic the fin's chewy, stringy texture. Hong Kong Station's sign made clear that no sharks were harmed in the making of this soup, though I didn't inquire further into the recipe — three-for-a-dollar dumplings were more enticing.
Hong Kong Station
45 Bayard St. (Elizabeth St.-Bowery), Manhattan
Also at 45 Division St. (Market St.-Bowery)
Seen at the Chinatown Street Fair, December 1, 2012