Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Stew

Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Stew すっぽん鍋

Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥
Winter is nabe season in Japan and there is nothing like a bubbling nabe hot pot to warm the body with a rich and hearty meal. Suppon, or soft shell turtle, is considered to be the most elegant fare for nabe. Suppon was the favorite of imperial courts through out Asia and of course was enjoyed by emperors at the Kyoto Imperial Palace for centuries. I was invited to photograph a mid-winter suppon nabe. I got to take some photos in the kitchen of the preparation and and then sample some suppon meat, liver and eggs in a rich broth with roasted mochi and leeks.

Suppon Cuisine History
According to archeological evidence, soft-shelled snapping turtles have been eaten in Japan since at least the 1st century and the cuisine has a history in China going back some 5000 years.

Since ancient times the Chinese considered suppon to be equivalent to medicine and the Japanese adopted this belief as well. Therefore, even today in Japan, turtle is considered very high-quality food. The nutritional value of turtle is undisputed, today Japanese doctors recommend turtle stew for late stage cancer patients. The cuisine is also considered to promote sexual potency in men, all the collagen and gelatinous stuff becomes sexual stamina. Turtle is not considered to be an aphrodisiac though, it just gives you the power. In Japan you probably wouldn’t want to invite a woman out for suppon on the first date!

Turtle has very few parts that cannot be eaten; the hard part of the shell, nails, leg bones and bladder are discarded. Little or no waste is another point that appeals to Japanese.

Suppon Nabe Served
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥

How did it taste?
The broth is rich, but surprisingly light. I expected turtle to taste more ‘wild’ or ‘gamey’, but it was not so. The broth is made with the classic Japanese broth ingredients: sake, mirin, shoyu, kombu and katsuo-bushi. The suppon has quite a lot of fat and this adds the hearty richness to the broth.

I got corrected for saying that it tastes quite similar to the dark meat of chicken. Correctly, it tastes like suppon, not anything else. The comparison is valid I think, in the sense that if you can eat the dark meat of chicken, you can surely handle suppon. Also, everything is cooked, well cooked, in fact.

Suppon Cuisine: Egg, Liver and Intestine
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥

Suppon Cuisine: Egg Detail
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥

Suppon Cuisine: Liver Detail
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥

Suppon Cuisine: Intestine Detail
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥

Suppon Nabe Served
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥

Suppon Nabe Served
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥

Suppon Nabe Served – Turtle Liver and Eggs
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥
The egg and liver was very good, the mochi and leek was a subtle contrast to the

Bones – This is all that remains
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥
All that remain are just a few bones! Everything else is edible.

Cooking Suppon Stew

Simmering Turtle Stew
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥

Simmering Turtle Stew
Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Soup すっぽん鍋 川千鳥
The yellow parts here are fat, not eggs. The white pieces are the soft and edible part of the shell.

3 Responses to “Suppon Nabe: Japanese Turtle Hot Pot Stew”

  1. That’s an new one on me. I have to say part of me is a little curious. Was this a restaurant in Kyoto?

  2. Peko-P says:

    What is a new one? Suppon nabe?

    Yes, of course the restaurant is in Kyoto. If fact, I dined there tonight!

  3. Yep, I didn’t realize there was any meat in turtles.

    I guess what I was really asking is what’s the restaurant’s info (name, address, etc). I want to add it to my growing list of places to try the next time I’m there. Thanks:-)

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