Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My New Favorite Food

My new favorite food. I won't even make you guess. I'll come right out and say it. It's fermented soybeans. Or natto in Japanese.

The thing about natto is that a whole lot of Japanese can't even stand it. It's stringy and slimy and smells quite ... distinct. J began eating natto a few months ago because he heard it was good for your skin and while I bought it for him I admit that the first few times he opened a package and began preparing it I thought maybe he'd taken a week's worth of gym socks out of his bag and arranged them on the table.

Strangest damned thing, over the weeks I began to really like the odor (um, fragrance) and started to associate it with strong cheese and roasted coffee.

Now the first time I was confronted with this delicacy was when I was doing kendo at Shizuoka University. We had a weekend lock in and natto was served for breakfast. Five in the morning and all at once fifty students peeled the styrofoam lids from the fermented/still fermenting beans. I very nearly hurled and quickly passed mine to the guy next to me. I attempted to eat it once more when I was pregnant because it's kind of a wonder food and everyone recommends it for pregnant women. But again, failure.

An aside: Natto is believed to help avoid heart attacks, pulmonary embolism and strokes. It's also said to prevent and possibly treat Alzheimer's. Natto contains loads of vitamin K which assists in the formation of bone and thus helps prevent osteoporosis. As well, it's supposed to be good for the skin (J's skin has really cleared up since he began his natto treatment). Oh, and that's not all. Some studies say it can lower cholesterol and prevent cancer. Got most of that from Wikipedia but there's also this and this. And so much more.

There's hundreds of ways to fix natto. Thousands even. I've done some experiments and here's my way.

Get the package...

Remove the lid to find a little pack of sauce and some mustard. I never use the mustard.

Tadah! Sticky, slimy, smelly beans.

Add the sauce and stir like crazy. The more you stir the crazier the beans get.

Like so...

Here are my ingredients: green onions, salted seaweed, and salted shiitake mushrooms.

Here's the salted seaweed (shio konbu). I love this stuff on just about anything. Mixed into white rice or even stirred into eggs before you fry them up.

And this is kind of the same thing, salted and dried shiitake mushrooms. Tasty.

So you throw that all on some rice, mix well, and voila!

Next recipe is going to be natto spring rolls. I'll let you know how they turn out.

The only real problem I have with the stuff is that the beans individually are super light. They're attached to all those strings and you can very easily go half a day with a single bean stuck to your chin or cheek and not even notice it. Yeah, that's embarrassing.


Ello said...

Ok - whatever you do - DON'T read my post where I talk about how much I hate natto. I can't believe you like the stuff. Seriously. But then again I can't believe my parents and sister love it either.

And the smell! Ok - see but this is why I can't eat blue cheese or other really stinky cheeses. The odor gets to me first!

Ello said...

Notice - I'm finally commenting again? My horrible semester is finally over!!!! I'm free!!!!

Hilary said...

Ohhh Terrie, I'm sorry but that looks disgusting! And I'll take your word for it about the smell. Can't they just dry the stuff out, ground it and put it into capsules? ;)

Kappa no He said...

Oh, Ello, I am so running to read your anti-natto post. And believe me, I was there. I can relate. But I've been converted. Notice little halo with stinky lines rising up from it?

And Yay! for being free!

Hilary! They do!! There's a great commercial they have that says something like, Sticky things (natto, okra, etc) are good for your health, but no one likes to eat them. Try this! Dried capsule of various sticky foods. I'll have to see if I can find it on Youtube.

Gabriel Novo said...

I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to food, so when I went to the one Japanese restaurant in Charlotte that actually had it, I immediately ordered some.

I've tried lots of "interesting" foods, like Sweetbreads, but Natto was more than I could handle. For me it wasn't the smell, it was the consistency. Slimy, gooey beans sliding down my throat was NOT a pleasant sensation (I'm shuddering while typing this).

I heard all the same "miracle food" claims, but there's no way in hell you could get me to try them again.

Kappa no He said...

Gabu, you are adventurous! I don't know what happened to me for me to be able to handle it. And the sliminess is worse than the smell, I agree. Those little strings flying everywhere.

Next post, shio kara! Squid guts. No, I still can't eat those.

Mary Witzl said...

You ARE brave! I hate natto something fierce. Youngest daughter adores it; husband doesn't mind it; eldest daughter and I faint at the sight of it. But I LOVE shiokara and umeboshi and raw egg on my rice.

The sliminess of natto is fine. It's the smell!

Kappa no He said...

Oh, Mary, no, no, no, anyone who can stomach shiokara wins hands down. Innards. Innards!

Did you know they also have "non stinky" natto. I've heard, have yet to run across this elusive beast though. It might change the world.

laughingwolf said...

tell your son not to pig out on soy, unless he wants big breasts... on himself :(


Kappa no He said...

Ha ha, yeah, I actually had to consult some doctors but most all of those soy myths are insane. As for breasts, my father-in-law has been eating natto, tofu, edamame daily for 77 years and he's pretty flat chested. Thank goodness. ^-^

Virginia Lee said...

Terrie, you may have my share. I cannot eat soy and, um, even if I could I don't think I could make myself try something _looks_ like that. I do not wish to imagine the _aroma_. Like Ello I don't respond well to stanky thangs foodwise. (Also not a blue cheese fan. Gah)


Anonymous said...

I don't like the snot-like consistancy either, but it tastes OK. Makes good omelets, and goes well in braised beef with miso. Mash some up with potatoes and green onions. Yum!

Kappa no He said...

V, oh, I think my love for blue cheese is what cleared the road for me.

Imomo, I've heard about omelets but the braised beef and miso and potatoes and green onions sounds delightful. I almost forgot what an amazing cook you are. Think I'll try the beef and miso tonight.

laughingwolf said...

good to know, terrie ;)