February 2, 2011

Packaging Whore: Suppon Soup in a Can

by Kayoko Akabori

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My pal Washi just got back from Japan and brought me an entire BAG full of fun omiyage (gifts)! Little booties from Muji, a pack of Nagoya-style miso udon, and a can of… kan kohi (canned coffee)?

I read it aloud, “ゴールド すっぽん スープ” aka Gold Suppon Soup.

“Turtle,” Washi translated.

Turtle soup? IN A CAN???

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More specifically, this is soup of the snapping turtle aka soft shell turtle aka Trionychidae aka suppon. According to Wiki, these are fierce (and really creepy-looking) creatures known to amputate people’s fingers and hands. Suppon is considered an Asian delicacy, and is rich in nutrients, promotes healthy skin, and most commonly known for its penis-performance enhancement (think Viagra, au naturel).

In talking with Hideko (who has always been too weirded out to try suppon herself), she says that this soup is often enjoyed in nabe (stew) and the culinary history of suppon dates hundreds (thousands?) of years.

Wait, this gets better.

Washi turned this can around to reveal these numbers.

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920707. You do the math. Yup, the expiration date is indeed 07/07/92!

Reminiscent of when I found that old bottle of vanilla extract in my mom’s kitchen cupboard, this can of suppon soup had been sitting in the back of Washi’s parents’ pantry for decades. Let’s assume that this can of turtle soup is, all told, at least 25 years old (given that it has at least a five year shelf life).

AMAZING! Washi says that his parents had an entire case of these cans, and they could not remember where on earth it came from.

[Start penis jokes now]

This packaging is awesome though. It’s just a little can, about as high as a standard coffee cup, about as wide as an empty toilet paper roll.

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You can get corn soup in these kind of cans in Japan, sometimes from vending machines even, but suppon soup is new to me.

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I love the playful typeface, which reminds me of the bygone days of Tora-san. The bottom part of the can basically says that the company chooses their own turtles for their soup, and how best to prepare it. Soup made of carefully curated turtles, yay!

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The instructions on the side of the can tells me how to serve this soup. Boil, add scallions and ginger; use as the base stock for nabe; or add into a pot with an egg and rice, to make zosui (porridge).

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Murakami, the company that makes this, is headquartered in Tokyo.

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They still sell their canned turtle soup on their website (whoa, it’s approx. $95 for this gift set! NOT CHEAP!).

In researching suppon, I came across an old post by former Creative Commons CEO Joi Ito. He wrote about his “favorite restaurant in the whole wide world,” a Kyoto restaurant specializing in suppon, called Daiichi. They serve courses of suppon in a number of different ways (stew, soup, zosui); it all looks so special.

These posts are from 2003, so who knows if it’s still his favorite restaurant, but he did post about Daiichi twice that year. Check out the comments in this post–some are just hilarious (“I just received a horrific email that highlighted that you people are actually eating dead babies. That is just absolutely disgusting and inhumane.“). DYING.

Here is also another post of a suppon feast by Kyoto Foodie with gorgeous photos. Looks like you can eat most of the suppon. He gives a bit of the culinary history too.

I have yet to try my can of Gold Suppon Soup. It’s a little daunting to just crack it open and start experimenting with it on my own. Plus, I love the fact that it’s 20+ year old, and a part of me wants to just keep it intact forever. Maybe I can pass it on to my own kids someday.

[Insert more penis jokes here]

One Comment

  • Posted February 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Wow, I thought the packaging was rather retro but didn’t think it was actually that old! I actually have tried suppon stew way back when we were living in Japan and only remember that it was rather nice and tasted a lot like ginger (I think they use a lot of ginger). Of course I didn’t drink the blood or anything as I was still a kid!

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