The Joy of Nattō

At least once a week, I pick a food product which I have only seen in Japan and try it out. Sometimes, when I feel the most daring, I go for something that looks utterly unappetizing. I must confess that I limit myself to interesting and bizarre vegetable matter and dried goods, and avoid trying the mysterious and creepy looking meats I have found. I am really not brave enough to try them, but I am sure that if my dad ever comes to visit us in Japan he will be all over the congealed globs and slices of questionable origin. Dustin, after one too many unpalatable failures, has gradually stopped trying any of the experimental foods I bring home.

A single serving natto box
A delicious soy product that I discovered a few months ago is nattō, or fermented soybeans. I bought it mostly on a personal dare, but it turned out to be wonderful and has become a new favourite of mine. Natto usually comes in individual serving square styrofoam boxes with little sauce packages inside. The sauces are usually a kind of salty fish sauce and sometimes a strong mustard. You mix them all together to create a frothy, goopy, stringy mixture and then pour it onto rice. I have also heard that it makes a really good toast topper, but I have yet to try it that way.

Fermented soybeans with sauce packet
I enjoy natto, but the fermented flavour and slippery feeling that it leaves in your mouth turns some people off. The smell is also fairly strong and unpleasant to some. I didn't outright dislike it on the first try, but it took a few times before I truly appreciated its tastiness. The flavour is really mild, a bit nutty and egg-like with a slight brewers yeast flavour undertone. It has a strong fermented smell but that didn't really bother me, maybe because I am used to the smell of Dustin brewing beer. What I struggled with at first was the texture. It is a cloying sort of slipperiness that coats the inside of your mouth in slime. Little gossamer threads of viscous ooze stretch from your chopsticks and drift onto your face if you are not careful, spreading the fermented smell onto everything they touch I am not sure that I am making much of a case for this food, but someone told me that you need to eat it 8 times to know whether you definitely love or hate it and there is definitely some truth in that. A few months of eating it later, and the texture does not bother me in the slightest and I adore it.

To make it even better, natto is really healthy for you, with lots of protein, vitamin K1 and K2PQQ, and probiotics. It is said to prevent senile dementia, breast cancer, osteoporosis, blood clots, and aids in digestion. It has become a staple breakfast food for me but I have yet to convince Dustin and Theo of its wonders. If I end up outliving them by 50 or so years, we'll know why!

All mixed and on top of rice with green onions: delicious!


Unknown said...

If you fry it in a little oil until most of the stickiness has gone then add rice and whatever flavourings you like it makes great fried rice!
Also great in omelettes..... I must say it took me a while to get used to it too, but definitely like it now.
Hope to see you in Kyushu soon!

Laura said...

Yum! I'll have to try it out. Maybe Dustin will even like it. Thanks for the ideas!

Shanon said...

Yeah! It's good! My Japanese friend gave some to me for a lunch at her place. They warned me I may not like it because it's so different to Western food. I surprised them!

Laura said...

I am glad you like it Shannon. Can you buy it in Calgary? If not, maybe I can convince Dustin to take some back in our luggage...yeah right! He would never forgive me if some got on his clothes.

erly said...

I love natto! I like to chop up green onions and shiso leaves on top of it with brown rice.

Shanon Palmowski said...

Hey Laura, weird, I didn't see your comment til today! As far as I know you cannot get it in Calgary. :( I only get to enjoy it when my friend shares some of hers.. which is rare indeed! :)

Laura said...

So I found some natto when we were visiting Winnipeg in August. It was in the freezer section of the Asian grocery store that we went to. It was absolutely horrible though. Completely desiccated and the soy beans kind of burst while frozen. I was pretty disappointed! So, even if you find it in Calgary, it may not be too tasty