If you’ve been in Japan a little while, you’ve probably heard of a food called “natto.” It’s a little bit controversial even among Japanese people. About half love it and the other half hate it.
IF you ever do visit Japan, at least try natto once. If you can eat it, you’ll win the locals over for sure.
What’s natto? It’s a traditional Japanese dish of fermented soybeans. The beans are sticky and stringy, and the fermentation gives it a strong smell. You can always tell if somebody’s opened a package of natto!
It’s pretty stinky, but lots of Japanese love it. It has been a traditional food of Japan for at least a thousand years. That’s a long way back!
In Japan, it’s what is called “hozon shoku,” or “preservation food.” This means that it is a traditional staple, something like what we might call “comfort food.”
One of the reasons why so many people love this stinky dish so much is that it’s good for you. Japanese people, especially those over 70, have always sworn that eating natto helps you live longer. Recent scientific evidence shows that this is the truth. Like anything made from soybeans, natto helps protect you against heart and kidney troubles, and helps keep your digestive tract clean and your blood flowing well.
The most unique health effect of eating natto, is that it helps your blood flow. Chemicals in natto which are a natural result of the process of fermentation help to keep your blood from clotting, and this prevents heart disease and strokes.
So, how is natto eaten? Most often, natto is eaten for breakfast, and it is simply put over rice. Some people put soy sauce over it to give it some added flavor.
If you can’t stomach straight natto, there are a million other ways to eat it. It’s pretty common to see natto sushi rolls. In some restaurants, you can get a natto omelet. You can find natto mixed with practically everything. If you really want to find some wild stuff, get on the web and do a search for “natto recipes.” See where that takes you!
One of my friends loves natto. He says that you almost have to eat it when you are a kid to like it as an adult.
When I asked him how on earth you could eat beans that have gone bad, he pointed out that some cheeses are fermented, like blue cheese. I couldn’t argue with that.
But I still can’t keep natto down. The smell, the sticky, stringy texture, the taste. Something about it just doesn’t sit right with me.
My wife tries constantly to get me to eat the stuff, and I try and try. It has become one of the biggest challenges in living in Japan: eating Natto. But, no matter what I mix it with, I can’t get it down.
I will master it someday!