Saturday, 8 March 2008

How to eat Japanese fermented soy beans (Nattō)

If you have Japanese friends, probably you have heard about Nattō.

It is fermented soy beans that one part of the Japanese people love so much that they cannot live without. And the other part, however, hates it. It is popular food in eastern part of Japan, but less so in the western part.

The reason of this deep divide is mainly the small of Nattō. As all the fermented foods, Nattō has a very particular and strong smell which is, if you are not used to it, a bad odour. Some say that the Chinese black beans are smelly, but there is no comparison with Nattō.

Also the non-Japanese people find this food disgusting. For foreigners, the problem is not only the smell, but also its sliminess. The Japanese people in general love slimy foods, but it is not the case for other nations. I have met only a couple of non-Japanese who said they like these fermented soy beans.

I heard that the Indonesians have something similar called "tempe", but they cook in a way that it does not smell as much as its Japanese cousin.

As I belong to the group that love Nattō, I enjoy enjoy eating it. Fortunately in Birmingham, we can find frozen Nattō in Chinese or Korean grocery stores. It costs three times more expensive than in Japan, but, I won't complain as it is probably brought frozen by air cargo (but it makes me feel guilty of carbon foot printing).

This is a packet of Nattō. I paid £1.40.

This packet contains 4 small containers of Nattō, as you see below. In a container, there are also a small packet of soy sauce based sauce and another of mustard.

I eat Nattō with raw egg. I put also some Japanese seven flavour chili. The white thing beneath is steamed rice.

And mix mix mix. Then I get this.

It is almost soupy because I did not put much rice, but usually people put more rice. The mixture of Nattō odour and raw egg smell is almost obscene. It is sooooo good.

I would not recommend this to anybody, as it is not for feint hearted, but if you happen to be lover of smelly food, this is the one for you. ha ha ha.

You can always find it in H-mart in Selly Oak, and sometimes also in Day-In in Arcadian Centre. This page will help you to find it, too.