What is Japanese Natto and how to eat it

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What is Japanese Natto?

Natto is a popular fermented soybean food in Japan since ancient times and one of those things, who haven't got real popular over here due to the strange flavour and even more crazy texture.

It is considered to have a unique nutty flavor, with a strong (some people say bad) smell and sticky-slimy texture. Besides this, Natto is rich in nutrients and is said to have high nutricial benefits.

Natto has high vitamin K2 content, antibacterial characteristics, and high dietary fiber content. The nutrients came from the fermentation process when making natto. You can easily obtain those health benefits by eating natto in a little serving each day or some days a week.

Japanese Natto

So what is Natto exactly?

Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. It has been known there since ancient times. Today still many people eat natto, it is a food that is loved and preserved by many generations in this country.

Making natto includes a fermentation process to convert carbohydrates into alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms (natto starter/Bacillus subtilis natto) under anaerobic conditions. Therefore, the ingredients of natto are soybeans and natto starter only, the outcome is a little wonder if you see it.

The unique taste of Natto

Japanese Natto has a sticky and slimy texture, a strong flavor, and a rather strong smell - it's not for everybody. It's kind of hard to describe the taste, but you can compare it to old cheese, with a little bit of bitterness. A lot of people love natto, but also many people may dislike it too. It is a topic every foreigner will be asked if you like or travel Japan because it's always a good topic.

For those who haven't tried it yet, please try and let us know your comments. It is proposed to consume natto because it has lots of health benefits.

How to use Natto

When you buy Natto in a convenience store in Japan or Asian supermarkets, you will usually receive Natto (sealed with clear film/plastic), karashi mustard (hot Japanese mustard), and Japanese soy sauce. At MYCONBINI, we have our own locally producterd Natto, you can find it here.

1) First of all, separate the natto from the clear film on top. Use a chopstick and stab it into the center of the film. Twist the chopstick around to easily remove it.
This is a very easy method to enjoy Natto without having your hand sticky because of the slimy texture.

2) You need to mix the Natto with chopstick before eating it. Mix it well until all  beans produce lots of thin, sticky strings.

3) After it become sticky enough, add karashi (typical Japanese mustard sauce) and Japanese soy sauce.

4) Boom! The natto is ready to serve!

Japanese people would love to eat their natto with toppings. You can use raw eggs, shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), chopped scallions, karashi (Japanese mustard), wasabi (recommended for black soybean natto), nori (seaweed), kimchi, furikake and many other things.

Japanese people say that simple rice is the best to with natto, especially when the rice is still warm. When you put natto with rice and raw egg, it becomes natto tamago kakegohan (rice mixed with raw egg plus natto as the topping). But eating it by itself will also be a good choice. You will be able to taste the unique, delicious taste of natto directly into your mouth!

Make sure to stir/mix your natto thoroughly before adding the topping. You can put your favorite topping at your own preference afterwards. Some topping will need another stir to make the taste even and delicious (shoyu and karashi, for example).

The different types of Natto

There are two types of natto; itohiki natto and tera natto. There is also dried natto - which is safe to be shipped abroad because it is freeze-dried. 
Itohiki natto is the usual natto that we know and can be categorized into 3 types:

1. Marudaizu Natto
Marudaizu or whole-soybeans natto use the whole soybeans and fermenting them to become natto. This type is the most popular one.

The size of the bean used will affect the natto's stickiness. The bigger the bean, the less sticky things get when you mix it. So if you are new in this "natto world", choosing bigger beans will be a good choice for beginners.

Black soybean are usually using soy sauce and wasabi as their topping. The topping gives a little spiciness at first (wasabi), but it become refreshing once you chew it. As for the smell, black soybean natto has a weaker smell and it won't bother people who doesn't really like natto.

2. Hikiwari Natto
The grounded natto is made by roasting soybeans -> grinding soybeans -> removing the peel -> and boiling soybeans. This type of soybean creates more surface area for the bacteria to grab onto, making this natto the stickiest and strongest tasting of them all. Hikiwari natto is easy to eat because of its small, chopped sized. The taste is also fresher than marudaizo natto.

I would like to recommend this natto for you who already like to eat natto. Because it is more sticky compared to the usual marudaizu natto, this can be your next challenge in your natto eating experience.

3. Goto Natto
Goto natto is a fermented form of natto, koji (malt), and salt. It took around 1 week to complete the fermentation process. Its origin is from Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture.

After having been changed to be made with less salt, it is sold under the name of "Yukiwari".

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