Clue Dinner Party (#74)

As we continue through our movie list, we finally arrive at one of my all time favorites: Clue. This classic, comedic, murder mystery leads itself to all sorts of fun dinner party ideas. You could make the evening black tie event and encourage all your guests to dress in their best formal wear. Or maybe you could start the evening with a murder mystery game. This was my original plan, but honestly, I spent so much time focusing on dinner, that I forgot about this.

So, dinner. For this event, I wanted to go full immersion, so I served the same dishes as the film. Or, at least in spirit. In the film, they start with an appetizer of shark fin soup. This became our dinner. I did my best to make an authentic dish for this. For dessert, we had a less authentic snack of "monkey brains" which though popular in Cantonese cuisine, is not often to be found in America. So, I made something completely different that was simply inspired by the name and has no relation to the original dish.

For the shark fin soup, I researched this dish quite closely while searching for an authentic recipe. What I learned was pretty surprising to me. This dish was originally considered a symbol of wealth and status, but later, it became common among middle class and poor, because it was easy and inexpensive to make. It ended up becoming a common dish sold by street vendors, who would sell it in a paper bowl. Unfortunately, the popularity of this dish led to the overfishing of sharks, with stories of some fishermen catching sharks, cutting off their fins, and throwing them back into the ocean to die. Because of the unethical harvesting of these sharks, most places started banning the dish. This led to creation of imitation shark fin soups, which quickly filled the void of its predecessor.

Imitation shark fin soup is considered a popular dish in many Asian countries today. When looking for a good recipe, I found so many different variations. What I ended up doing was making my own version using the things that many of these dishes seemed to have in common. 

Fun fact: Variations of this dish are served with many different proteins. You may think that these proteins are meant to replace the missing shark. You would be wrong. Shark fin is stringy and flavorless. The glass noodles are actually the shark substitute. The particular proteins used are less important, but almost every version contains chicken.

This soup was easy to make, but the ingredients may be difficult to find if you do not have a well stocked Asian market near you.

Imitation Shark Fin Soup

Ingredients: (Serves 4)
50 grams of chicken
50 grams of a second protein (pork, scallops, crab, or shrimp)
20 grams of dried Chinese black mushroom or shiitake mushroom
30 grams of cellophane noodles (also called glass noodles or mung bean noodles)
8 - 10 pieces of dried black fungus (also called cloud ear or wood ear)
2 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (Allergic to soy? So was one of my guests. Skip to end for a substitution.)
1 dash sesame oil
1 or 2 dashes of white pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons water chestnut flour


  1. Soak your dehydrated mushrooms and fungus in separate bowls of water. Leave them in these bowls until they seem fully rehydrated. For me, this took about 30 minutes. When each of these appears to be fully rehydrated, drain and rinse. If these ingredients have not already been trimmed, do that now. Be sure to remove stems from the mushrooms and slice into small strips.
  2. Prep the chicken and other protein by also slicing them into small, easy to cook strips. Small chunks would also work.
  3. Put your chicken broth in a pot along with an equal amount of water. Bring to a boil. Then add all your proteins, mushrooms and fungi, along with the dark soy sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper seasonings. Once it returns to a build, lower the temperature to simmer and cover. You need to make sure all your proteins are cooked through thoroughly before moving to the next step. You may want to reduce the temperature down even lower and let this broth slow cook for a few hours. This will ensure the chicken and other protein absorb all the flavors of the dish while cooking.
  4. As you get close to dinner time, go ahead and cook your noodles. These noodles are quick to cook. Add them to a pot of boiling water and they will be ready in 3 or 4 minutes. At this point drain and rinse the noodles. Set aside to cool.
  5. The last thing to do before serving is to bring the temperature of your broth back up to a simmer and add the thickening agents, namely the water chestnut flour and egg. Stir these in thoroughly. This will turn your broth into more of a soup.
  6. Combine soup with noodles and serve dish warm.
This dish was not the most flavorful thing I have ever made, nor was it the most beautiful, but it was very hearty and filling. You may want to add additional flavoring in the form of soy sauce, sesame oil, fish oil, or red vinegar.

When I made this dish, I had a guest with a soy allergy and another with soy sensitivity, so I made two pots. One the way described above and a second pot where I substituted the dark soy sauce with my own alternative seasoning. I already had a bottle of Coconut Aminos, which is a common soy sauce substitute, but unfortunately it is thin, watery, and sweet. This would not be a good substitute for dark soy sauce. Thankfully, I also had Worcestershire sauce available. It has a similar saltiness, color, and thickness to dark soy sauce, but it has a strong barbecue flavor, which wouldn't fit this dish. What I discovered is that when I combined these two, the sweetness of the amino cancelled out the barbecue taste of the Worcestershire. I did not measure how much of each I used, but I would guess it was about 3 or 4 parts Worcestershire to one part coconut amino. In the end, the flavor turned out good, but the soup was significantly lighter in color than the pot of soup that used the dark soy.

Monkey Brains Dessert

3 tins of uncooked Pillsbury cinnamon rolls (You will not end up using all of this, so expect leftovers)
1/2 cup or more melted butter
1/2 cup or more brown sugar

Tools Needed:
muffin pan


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease muffin pan with some melted butter.
  2. Open Pillsbury tins and tear or cut cinnamon rolls into small strips or pieces. They don't all need to be uniform. Variation in size and shape will improve the overall look when done.
  3. Place tiny pieces of cinnamon dough inside muffin tins. Lightly pack each tin. Do not pack tightly, or the pieces of dough will lose their individual shape. Also, do not fill the tin. The dough will double in size when baked, so only fill your tins halfway.
  4. Mix together your brown sugar and melted butter. Then pour this mixture into each tin. There should be just enough to fill in any gaps or cracks in the dough. If you run out of your brown sugar/butter mixture, make a little more. You don't want to skimp on this essential ingredient.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. When ready, the "brains" will be golden and crispy. Let cool before serving.
  6. Once cooled, serve the "monkey brain" upside down so that the crispy brown sugar side is on top. This can be served with some traditional glaze or frosting, or even with some vanilla ice cream.

Overall, this unique twist on monkey bread came out really well. All the guests seemed to enjoy it and some came back for seconds. Honestly, I think they looked great and tasted just as good as it looked.

In the end, I think this was a successful event. The movie was good and the food tied in well with the film.


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