Follow Me To The Deep End!!

Mar 30, 2009

Natto: the Sticky, Slimy, Stinky Soybean. Can't Get No Respect. Nijiya Market, West LA.

nattogoo
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.

Nijiya Market
2130 Sawtelle Blvd
Ste 105
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 575-3300


Natto Virgin from eric alba on Vimeo.

29 comments:

pleasurepalate said...

I have tried to like natto at least 4 to 5 different occasions, but just can't get past the slimy texture. More power to those who can.

Juliet said...

I never knew that natto was so good for you. I love the stuff! By itself, over rice, rolled into sushi...
What is it with me and stinky foods?

Daily Gluttony said...

"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."

I laughed so hard my cereal just about came up my nose. Snot-o indeed!

Eddie Lin said...

pleasure palate,

you can't get past the worst part- the slime - and yet you've eaten on 4 or 5 different occasions? you are a glutton for punishment. that's okay, there's plenty of other challenging foods to torture yourself with. thanks.


juliet,

keep eating natto for long life. you won't have any luncheon friends but you'll live longer than they will. stinky foods rule!


pam,

it's better than having natto come out your nose. that would be like having a mini hobo's ass trapped inside your nose.

Jennie said...

Actually, I thought that looked pretty good! My friend was in Tokyo, and her host made his own natto by spraying beans with the bacteria from a can, and leaving it to ferment! Crazy shit.

Thanks for the link to the "hobo's ass" article. F*ck that was some funny shit!

Ps - not doing too good on my Zungen Blutwurst research. My German connections think they're too posh for that kind of fare! Still searching.

Eddie Lin said...

Hey Jennie,

It's not bad at all. I was expecting worse. My Asian friends were telling me that it's terrible. I'm buying more soon.

You're welcome on the hobo ass link. You should check out his huitlacoche story (corn smut). You'll shit yourself.

In the meantime, thanks for your efforts on bloodtongue. I think you need to ship your friends some hakarl.

Simon Thibault said...

I worked in a sushi bar that used to serve natto. I would dread it when the chef would ask me to get it for him. If i touched it, the smell would be on my fingers forever.

I tried to like it. Twice. The second time with mustard.

Nope.

It smells and tastes like 3 day old smoked smegma.

Eddie Lin said...

Simon,

Long time no hear from you. Welcome back. Yep, natto lingers on the fingers for sure. As far as tasting like 3 day-old smoked smeggy. I will take your word for it. Nasty business!

choisauce said...

mmmm I am a lover of hillbilly's ass and I actually loooove the snotty texture of it! yum. may I out live all y'all, beetches! :) (except I actually bc of all the other crap I eat i.e. mcgangbangs :()

Eddie Lin said...

choisauce - yooza a crazee beeyatch. mcgangbangin'. pioneer chickin eater. get out of my store! natto 4ever!!!

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Anonymous said...

Eddie

A sushi bar chef who gives me challenging things to try just for fun, gave me this substance. Honestly, this was the only thing i've eatten where i almost chucked right on the bar. Luckily, I had a large sapporo. I liken it to hobo ass with a coffe ground taste.

WineGrrl said...

I love natto; however, I do realize that I'm in the minority in every sense of the word, LOL!

jillian said...

Thankfully, Natto(kinase) is available in supplement form!

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, Natto(kinase) is available in supplement form!

Garando said...

I love hearing about "first time" experiences with Natto. It's so varied and unexpected. Mine was more or less outrageous and unforgettable.

Here's the link to it.
http://garando.blogspot.com/2008/10/balut-natto_06.html

Martin said...

I've only seen pictures of natto before, but now that I see it in video its texture reminds me of Swedish långfil (long sour milk). Which I eat whenever I can buy and feel like I can afford (it's 3-5 times more expensive than ordinary filmjölk/surmjölk (sour milk) and a bit exotic in my part of Sweden).

The stickiness/slimeness of långfil depends on the manufacturer and the weather when you eat it (not kidding). You can drag a good batch into 2 meter long strings and pull it from the edges of the bowl, yet it's fluid. You can make it less "long" by stirring it with a spoon until you get the consistency you like, or just shake the container until it feels thinner. Delicious with cinnamon or spicy Swedish pepparkakor (ginger thins, good ones is getting hard to get even in Sweden, we are being flooded with bland cheap ones that taste dust and glucose syrup with only a faint hint of spices).

That hillbilly ass taste, is that another way of describing butyric acid or is it something less sinister? Långfil has a hint of butyric acid from its fermentation, but much less then, say, cheddar cheese or some expensive vines.

RoadWarrior said...

After reading all the comments, including the guy who claims it tastes like 3-day old smegma (and he knows this... how??), I decided I had to try it. Not because I'm a masochist, but because it is incredibly healthy for you and I'd be foolish not to.

This is what I do: Take the natto packet out of the freezer. Boil 1/2 cup (1 cup yield) brown Basmati rice (Basmati is more flavorful). When done stir in the partially thawed natto until well mixed. Add 2-3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, 2-3 tablespoons Tamari soy sauce, and seasoned salt to taste (I use Trocomare). Voila!

1) I think it smells worse than it tastes, but if you keep it frozen until you're ready it doesn't smell that much.

2) The rice and other ingredients help camouflage the flavor to the point where it tastes slightly odd, but not bad. Just tell yourself: It's not supposed to taste American...

3) The rice helps the gooey consistency a lot, but it's still slightly slimy. To me the mouth-feel is like having a workout without adequate hydration. Again, not bad. Just know to expect it and then drink something afterward.

Conclusion: This stuff has really grown on me and I actually look forward to eating it! Who knew?

I had trouble finding it. Ask for "Japanese fermented beans" at your Asian market. Your average ignorant American (me) doesn't connect the fact that so many different Asian countries actually use different ingredients. This will help narrow your search. I had to go to a Korean/Japanese grocery. Enjoy! : )

Eddie Lin said...

Road Warrior, thanks for sharing your natto experience. I commend you for trying it! However, if you truly value natto's health benefits, then you shouldn't be cooking it. Natto is a fermented live food brimming with good bacteria. If you boil natto, all those healthful components are destroyed.

So try to enjoy natto without cooking it. Add all the seasoning you want, however.

Ciao and good eating!

Krista said...

Erm Road Warrior didn't boil the natto, he boiled the rice.

Anonymous said...

I love natto(aka snotto) specially on ice cream.its mad cool the way the ice cream melts and goes all stringy and gooey. also like it on rice with a fried egg for breakfast. asian foods rock.

Anonymous said...

If you want to enjoy the health benefits of natto but can't handle the texture, put it into soup or broth. The goopy stuff dissolves in water, so it's like you just added cooked beans to soup.

Anonymous said...

P.S., Natto's greatest value is that it's a far richer source of vitamin K-2 than any other food. K-2 moves calcium out of your blood and into your bones. This simultaneously strengthens your bones while protecting your heart. (High levels of calcium in the blood contribute to coronary artery disease.)

Unknown said...

I have made Natto at home twice. The first time, I used regular soybean(bigger ones)and comercial pack of natto fermented in styrofoam boxes put in front a heater for 18 hours. I was successful. The natto bean sticky and very stringy with with thing on the top.
Since I don't want to cause fire by the heater, I bought a yolife yogurt maker. Same materials and process. Then the soybean was put in the yogurt maker for 24 hours. The smell is more sour than foul smell. The beans are not very stringy but more moiture. Does this sound correct? Should I add some sugar to help continue fermentation. Could I eat this kind of Natto?

Unknown said...

I have made Natto at home twice. The first time, I used regular soybean(bigger ones)and comercial pack of natto fermented in styrofoam boxes put in front a heater for 18 hours. I was successful. The natto bean sticky and very stringy with with thing on the top.
Since I don't want to cause fire by the heater, I bought a yolife yogurt maker. Same materials and process. Then the soybean was put in the yogurt maker for 24 hours. The smell is more sour than foul smell. The beans are not very stringy but more moiture. Does this sound correct? Should I add some sugar to help continue fermentation. Could I eat this kind of Natto?

Unknown said...

I have made Natto at home twice. The first time, I used regular soybean(bigger ones)and comercial pack of natto fermented in styrofoam boxes put in front a heater for 18 hours. I was successful. The natto bean sticky and very stringy with with thing on the top.
Since I don't want to cause fire by the heater, I bought a yolife yogurt maker. Same materials and process. Then the soybean was put in the yogurt maker for 24 hours. The smell is more sour than foul smell. The beans are not very stringy but more moiture. Does this sound correct? Should I add some sugar to help continue fermentation. Could I eat this kind of Natto?

M said...

I had some natto(for the1st time!!!) earlier today with a little shoyu over cooked rice. I could not put it to my mouth, so I added a few things. . . . chopped, baked chiken, siracha sauce, hot mustard sauce and teriyaki sir fry sauce. Ate a third of it and dumped the rest. I have 3 more packets. . . think, think, think. . . .Idea!!! I made some red-cooked beef soup the other day, so I took the surplus from the fridge, heated it up and added a package of natto. Stir and serve. No nebe nebe. My unsuspecting son loved it. So did I.

M said...

I had some natto(for the1st time!!!) earlier today with a little shoyu over cooked rice. The the nebe nebe hit my senses and I could not put it to my mouth, so I added a few things. . . . chopped, baked chiken, siracha sauce, hot mustard sauce and teriyaki sir fry sauce. Ate a third of it and dumped the rest into the circular file. I have 3 more natto packets waiting, biding their time in the fridge. . . (think, think, think). . . .Idea!!! I made some red-cooked beef soup the other day, so I took the surplus from the fridge, heated it up and added a package of natto. Stir and serve. No nebe nebe. My unsuspecting son loved it. So did I.

hogtownmark said...

It's not that bad... stinky cheese is much much worse.
I add condiments and green onions among other crunchy things like croutons with my natto in the morning.
I wrote an article on my natto experience here. Check it out. http://foodstochew.com/my-week-with-natto-san/