Natto is a traditional Japanese food of fermented soybeans. Natto soybeans are steam-cooked and then fermented with a healthy bacteria known as Bacillus subtilis. The fermentation process yields a food that is high in nutrition and protein.
At first glance, natto appears to be light to dark brown in color, with beans that are quite small. It has a strong odor and a strong flavor which makes natto somewhat of an acquired taste. As far as the texture is concerned, the beans are medium-firm but soft in the center. Due to the beans' fermented nature, they have a slimy texture with long stretchy strings of slime that takes some maneuvering in order to eat.
To round out your meal, consider serving any or all of these optional garnshes alongside the Natto and rice: Dried bonito fish flakes, Kizami nori (thinly sliced dried seaweed), Karashi (hot Japanese yellow mustard), Wasabi (fresh hot horseradish), sliced green onions (negi) and sliced fresh shiso leaves (perilla).
- 1 to 2 cups of cooked, steamed short grain white or brown rice
- 1 to 2 packets of fermented soybeans (natto)
- Soy sauce, to taste
Note: This recipe assumes you have freshly cooked, steamed rice already available for use.
- Serve white or brown rice in a generous rice bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 packs of natto (fermented soybeans). If the package comes with packets for seasoning sauce and karashi (hot Japanese yellow mustard), add the contents to the bowl. Mix vigorously with chopsticks.
- Add in favorite garnishes to the natto. Additional soy sauce may also be desired, to suite individual tastes. Any number and combinations of the above-suggested garnishes may be added into the natto mixture.
- Next, top the steamed rice with the mixed natto, and add extra garnishes as desired. Eat immediately.
Variations of Natto
Variations of natto includes chopped natto, marketed as "hikiwari natto," where the soybeans are chopped prior to fermentation. Other variations include "kotsubu natto," which are fermented soybeans that are smaller than what is considered typical.
Natto is sold prepackaged into small 40- or 50-gram packets, and sold in packs of three to five packets. It is available for sale in the refrigerated section of Japanese and other Asian grocery stores. Unopened natto packages may be stored in the freezer for a short period of time.
In Japanese cuisine, the most basic way that natto is enjoyed is served over hot steamed rice. This way of eating natto is quite traditional and often eaten for breakfast. Other times where natto over rice is enjoyed is as a snack, side dish or even as a quick and easy meal.
Other interesting ways in which natto is enjoyed in Japanese cuisine include:
- Temaki sushi (hand roll) filling
- Natto tempura
- Natto onigirazu (rice ball sandwich)
- Natto served over cold or hot udon or soba
- Natto salad served with okra and grated daikon radish
Article Updated by Judy Ung