Natto: the Sticky, Slimy, Stinky Soybean. Can't Get No Respect. Nijiya Market, West LA.
Rhymes with snot-oh.
Natto happens when perfectly good soybeans are deliberately turned rotten by introducing a bacteria, Bacillus natto, to the batch. These soybeans then mutate into some kind of monster soybeans and are covered in slime as if they're melting and decomposing right before your eyes. Supposedly natto tastes and smells like death itself, however, these are all gross exaggerations (emphasis on the gross). Natto, in fact, does not taste like death. Exactly the opposite, it tastes like life. Only it's life that just happens to taste and smell like moldy sweat socks, reminiscent of an old roommate.
This is truly living food. There are between one million and one billion active bacteria per gram of natto. Bacillus natto contains vitamin K which produces menaquinone 7 that helps prevent osteoporosis. Natto also helps to prevent senile dementia, breast cancer, blood clots and aids in digestion. As a tradeoff you'll need to hand over your olfactory sense and remaining taste buds — a small price to pay for immortality.
Natto won't win any best tasting food contests anytime soon, but its benefits definitely make the momentary unpleasantness of ingesting it worthwhile. My experience with natto led me to place it in the category of food that grows on you (and possibly grows inside you too). I found the complex flavors both appealing and appalling. Stinky tofu was a similar experience and that's also a fermented food.
Although I don't feel natto's flavor is like making out with a hobo's ass, I can appreciate why someone wouldn't want to put it in his mouth. Plus, it's more like a hillbilly's ass—you know, earthier.
Priced between $1.50 and $3.00 for a package of three servings, natto is an economical superfood or, at least, a cheap prank next time you make baked beans for your smelly roommate.
2130 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Natto Virgin from eric alba on Vimeo.