Sunday, April 09, 2006

natto is an acquired taste

natto is made from fermented soybeans. it is a japanese food that is traditionally eaten for breakfast. historically, steamed soybeans were packed in rice straw, which naturally contains the bacterium bacillus natto, and left to ferment in a warm place. today, cultured b. natto is simply added to the cooked beans. apparently, natto is very healthy. but mostly, natto tastes really, really bad.

i grew up in france, and in my limited experience, i would say there is nothing i have eaten that i have not liked. i eat snails, naturally. innards don't make me wince. i've eaten brain, i love blood sausage, i will eat kidneys. i grew up with blue cheese and i actually enjoy marmite. but natto, i have to say, i do not like. not even remotely.

now, i have always believed that one can get used to anything. aversions are usually cultural, and are triggered by the unknown or unfamiliar. so the question i pose myself is not: can i actually learn to like natto, but: how long will it take?

thankfully i am not alone in this dismal enterprise. chad tasted natto first and we will be going through this together. the experiment goes like this: eat cold, unseasoned natto every morning for breakfast. for as long as it takes. this blog will be our confessional.

17 Comments:

Abie said...

This is an experiment in self-control I wouldn't have thought of...

best of luck!

PS : why raw and unseasoned?

1:30 PM  
Anonymous said...

Ouch, constant Natto every day?? how horrifying. I love marmite; and I think anyone who doesn't is really missing out. :P I admire your enterprise. I'm having enough of a hard time switching from normal milk to soy.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous said...

Dear Natto experimenters,
Omedeto for your attempts to enjoy natto. I too was raised in france and I eat almost everything ( but, sorry, no snails, no frogs, no boudin)...
I started to enjoy natto when I went to Mitsuwa, a Japanese supermarket in New Jersey. There was a salesperson giving away samples of natto with rice wrapped in nori seaweed. I decided to try, (I had before and never liked it) and bingo, somehow, the combination got me hooked. Now I eat it very often, but you have to find the right combination that works for you.
One thing is also to get used to the sliminess of natto, I don't know any other food that have this characteristic...Now I relish the slime a lot...
So Natto with rice and nori, natto with tofu and nori and all the other fancy recipes Japanese chefs keep coming up with for this absolutely wonder-food...do experiment..
I think the soft crunchiness of the beans, the nutty taste and sliminess are really what people crave, so to me it makes no sense to accuse natto of being what it is...and I would totally avoid any comparisons to cheese...Natto is surprising the first times precisely because it tastes like nothing we (Westerners) know...
And It does nothing to compared it with chees, it gives it a bad context...One has to get past the smell and judge the food by the taste..If we ate with our nose, we wouldn't eat many things...
Once I made soba with a dash of dashi, cream cheese and natto, sprinkled with nori...it was divine..tomorrow I want to replace the cream cheese with soft tofu...best served cold of course...
Best
Yves

3:50 PM  
Anonymous said...

i am japanese/american, raised by a japanese grandmother. we ate natto everyday for breakfast, but never plain. it was something that my grandmother would not serve with company over, for fear of offending them. i commend you for trying to adjust to this strong flavor.

most japanese that i meet wont even touch natto at all. all the ones that i have met that do, eat it in a traditional way: mix beans to produce strings, add green onions and a pinch of fresh grated lemon zest(optional). mix again to coat onions. add soy sauce, and mix again. then serve immediately over hot rice. i was never allowed to eat this recipe plain with no rice because my grandmother said that there was too much salt.

another way that is one of my favorites is to get takana zuke (pickled mustard greens) rinse under cold water finely chop and add to plain natto. mix together then add soy sauce and mix again. this is also eaten over rice.

natto is something that is best made fresh every time you eat. it can be stored but is like eating cold old fast food! it can be done but is not reccomended

1:53 PM  
Viva said...

I had always been told, either you love natto or you hate it. I didn't like it at all the first time I had it. However, now I can't get enough of it. I spent a month in Japan on a homestay and my tastes changed radically in that time period. It is the perfect breakfast food. I find that most of the time I don't have enough time to make rice, so I just have the small carton for breakfast, and some fruit, or a cup of chocolate soymilk, or lactaid. It is very heavy on the protein and therefore rather filling. I would also be interested to see if you guys were losing weight while eating so much natto due to the high protein to calorie content.

If you like the tsuyu you can get it in bottles at any japanese super-market, I recommend the soba tsuyu. Also if you don't like mustard, I would suggest, for a similar bite, adding a bit of wasabi. Wasabi, grated daikon, tsuyu, and a bit of green onion I find quite tasty.

11:19 AM  
Sluggo said...

I love natto, but I also took time to acquire a taste for it.

The one thing that makes it for me is the addition of raw egg with the natto over hot rice and a cup of miso soup on the side. Perfect.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous said...

Hi all! I live in Japan and I must say that eating natto usaully twice a day has really made me feel healthier! You could try eating some natto on your muesli or mixed with yogurt or just added to your main dish. I know some Japanese eat it for breakfast but it`s not limited to breakfast, alot of them eat it for lunch and dinner too! THats how I eat mine, so I just poor it over wehat ever I`m eating! Anyway it`s great that you guys are doing this! Good health to you all!

2:17 AM  
Anonymous said...

I started eating natto not too long ago... and now I've bought enough to stock in my freezer for lunch at work every day for the next few months! This tastes really good when you're hungry and requires minimal preparation the night before (except for the rice cooking, of course). I am looking forward to the results of eating it every day- hopefully improving my overall healthiness.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous said...

I've been eating it off and on for about a year now, but recently got hooked on it and eat it almost daily. I eat it on toast! Add 1 tsp. mayonnaise, dash of soy sauce, a little wasabe, stir it up and spread it on bread. Yum! And it keeps me full till lunch.

10:36 AM  
harmonious1 said...

Hi
Have you noticed any health changes, either good or bad?

9:33 PM  
Anonymous said...

I studied abroad in Nagoya & the ONLY way I can eat natto is with raw egg, tsuyu & scallions. The key is to warm the egg up naturally as much as you can until it reaches room temperature. Then you beat the egg until it's frothy, add the tsuyu, and mix in the natto until the mixture is atleast semi-uniform. Serve over fresh, hot rice. Theoretically (and I use the term loosely), the hot rice is supposed to cook the raw egg. It may be a little problem with salmonella, but this is the way I learned to love it in Japan. If you can ignore the slimy texture it may work for you...

1:26 PM  
kanga said...

I am Korean American and started eating Natto in highschool. I love it--my version has a dash of sesame oil, pinch of sesame seeds, soy sauce, chopped scallions and the packets included in the package. sometimes i add a dab of wasabi paste. It's so good but so difficult to try the first time. I knew I met my future husband when I found out that he (who is Taiwanese-American) learned to love it like me. LOVVVVEEE IT!

9:17 PM  
Anonymous said...

I applaud the author for his understanding that "aversions are usually cultural". If only more people, especially here in the US, were half as open-minded and culturally sophisticated as this guy.

As for natto, well I love the stuff. I can't get enough of it.

10:50 PM  
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