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