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Happy Tur….tle Day!

Photo credit:panduh:CC by-nc-sa 2.0

Fugu is not adventurous enough!” my former boss exclaimed when planning a surprise dinner for his guest from the US; he wanted to make it memorable and adventurous. “Have you had suppon?”, he challenged me. I replied that I’d had it once about ten years ago. So, there it was, we set up a soft-shell turtle course dinner last week, right before Thanksgiving Day here in Tokyo.

Suppon and fugu are prominent winter delicacies you can find at expensive restaurants around Japan. Poisonous blow fish is ubiquitous and you see fugu sashimi, deep fried fugu or other presentations of fugu at many restaurants. However, suppon still remains very special, even for a lot of Japanese. Maki, our selected restaurant in Shinbashi run by Mr. Turtle, specializes in just this one thing.

The restaurant serves one turtle per person throughout the night; every part of the turtle, including bodily fluids, is served either raw or in a steaming nabe hot pot, cooked with vegetables right at the table. The one exception is the deep fried paw. When glasses of red and green liquid were presented to us, I felt like Alice or Neo choosing the red pill or the blue pill. In the end, I did not have any choice, but the question everyone had was “Should I have to have either?”

red and green fluid from suppon
red and green shots drained from suppon

Everything served that night was exotic and fun to talk about, and well, mostly good. If you ask why people eat it, some people like the taste, but mostly it is supposed to be good for you. One thing I am sure anyone would agree with is that the highlight of the suppon nabe dinner is the risotto-like zosui cooked in the broth from the turtle and vegetables. It has such a deep flavor and umami, yet is so light. There is a distinct difference from any fish or meat-based broth. I guess this long-simmering soup and the resulting zosui are what make this turtle dinner so special.

The turtles we had that day came from Lake Hamana in Hamamatsu. They were farmed for five years to reach about 1.2 kilograms. If you are shaking your head with disgust and disbelief at what lengths people would go to for exotic food, you are not alone. Out of eight locals from Tokyo at the table that day, only two had had suppon before: I had it 10 years ago and other guy had it 5 years ago.

Oh, if you are curious about suppon, stop by at Maki. Mr. Turtle speaks fluent English and he can tell you all about his specialty.

Restaurant Information
TEL: 03-3580-9663
3-2-3 Shinbashi, Minato, Tokyo
URL: http://homepage2.nifty.com/suppon/ (in Japanese)
suppon appetizer
various suppon appetizers: suppon eggs marinated in miso, nuta, suppon shaped tofu

suppon paw
deep fried paw

suppon nabe
suppon nabe


10 Responses to “Happy Tur….tle Day!”

  1. You are very adventurous! Not sure I could do the ‘turtle juice’ shots…

    I’ll spare you the story of the pet turtles we had in japan over 10 years ago as it might make you feel guilty 😉

    Posted by Shane | December 1, 2008, 1:51 pm
  2. Oh, Etsuko, I don’t know if I could do it…that picture of the paw made me feel so sorry for the little guy!

    Posted by melinda | December 12, 2008, 11:59 am
  3. Hi Shane,
    Turtle juice shots? Great name for a shot, isn’t it? Well, I think it was 50-50 in the group, especially the green one.

    Posted by Et-chan | December 12, 2008, 7:14 pm
  4. Hi Melinda
    I know! When they brought out that little paw, I thought who would eat this! The restaurant said they mix the green and red turtle shots with Koshi-no kanbai. Would it make you to change your mind?

    Posted by Et-chan | December 12, 2008, 7:22 pm
  5. But that poor paw!

    Posted by melinda | December 21, 2008, 9:28 am
  6. I got served “young turtle soup” on my last trip to Kyoto in October 2008. I turned off the rational part of my brain and just kept repeating “this is chicken, this is chicken, this is chicken…” an old Fear Factor technique that at least got me thru dinner. I don’t think I would last long at Maki!

    Posted by Timothy | January 4, 2009, 7:17 am
  7. Hi Tim! Akemashite Omedeto!
    OK, I won’t challenge you next time you are here. If I say terrapin soup, is it better, though?

    Posted by Et-chan | January 7, 2009, 12:28 pm
  8. An excotic meal. Here in Indonesia, the Indonesian chinese like to eat turtle soup 🙂

    Posted by Selba | January 21, 2009, 1:53 pm
  9. Hi Selba,

    I did not know you have turtle soup there, too. We tried Minahasan food last summer and I have to say, that was the most exotic meal I’ve had in my life!

    Posted by Et-chan | January 23, 2009, 11:32 pm


  1. […] that comes in range of its nasty jaws, I think you get the idea. Just like another winter delicacy, suppon course, the highlight and the finale of the dinner is the risotto-like zosui with rice simmered in […]

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