Expat, Food, Japan

Surprise Soup

One of the wonderful things about being an expat is being part of a rich multinational community and the fact that you regularly have unexpected new experiences with lovely new people. For example…

Last month a Japanese lady I barely knew threw open her doors and warmly welcomed a group of us over for a sushi party. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it turns out we were in for a real treat.

When we arrived, the kitchen was already a hive of organised activity. With the help of three compatriots, our hostess first gave a demonstration followed by a hands-on lesson in the art of rolling sushi. (It’s far trickier than it looks by the way).

We were shown which way up and round to lay out a sheet of seaweed on a bamboo mat. We were taught to add rice and gradually manipulate it flat with our fingertips covering all but a 2 inch band at one end of the seaweed.  We added various ingredients, such as cucumber, mushrooms, salmon and tuna and then rolled it into a cylinder.

Finally we cut the roll into bite size pieces each displaying a cross section of the ingredients.  Some ladies did a far better job than others (i.e. than me).  But this is the end result of our combined efforts:

Superb and expertly made sushi.
Superb and expertly made sushi.

Next we became an attentive audience watching as our four new Japanese friends prepared fresh vegetable tempura and Japanese omelette. The omelette clearly required quite some skill and patience to cook correctly. It’s done using a rectangular pan and chopsticks. The end result was beautifully layered, slightly sweet and absolutely delicious.  To add a South African twist to the proceedings, there was a power cut, so everything had to be prepared on portable tabletop gas rings.

We kicked off our feast with ‘Surprise Soup’. “Soap?” asked the guests.  “No soup” our hostess assured us, asking each of us to select a mystery soap sized and shaped package.

Surprise soap?
Surprise soap?

1.  Put unpackaged ‘cake’ into a bowl.

2. Poke hole in top with spoon handle.

3. Pour in flavouring from supplied sachet.

4.  Add hot water.

Add Hot Water.
Add Hot Water.

Your momentary patience will be rewarded with magical suprise soup.

flower soup

There were numerous other dishes, then desserts, Japanese green tea ice-cream, almond jelly and a Polish pud similar to profiteroles (courtesy of one of the other guests).  After a short tea ceremony to round off the meal we all just about needed to be rolled home after over-indulging at the feast.

Emi and friends, domo arigato gozaimasu for a wonderful afternoon, the food was stunning and the hospitality so generous.     Seriously, you ladies should think about setting up a weekend pop-up restaurant. It would be a roaring success. Unquestionably the best Japanese food in Johannesburg. When can I make a reservation?

We are so lucky to have these experiences.  Expat life is a bit like surprise soup. You never know what you’re going to get, but it is usually fabulous. In the meantime, if anybody knows where I can buy magic surprise soup pods in either SA or the UK, please please please let me know, being a reluctant cook they are my idea of dinner-party-starter heaven.

2 thoughts on “Surprise Soup”

  1. The soup does sound really fun! Just like the Chinese teas where you put a dried flower in hot water and then get the most delicious tea ever. Not sure if you will find this Japanese soup in Joburg, but the Chinese area, Cyrildene is worth a try.


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