Saturday, October 20, 2007
There can only be two responses to the above photo: that of pure disgust or pure curiousity at what that weird-looking 'thing' is.
Perhaps you already know what it is - which means you've probably eaten it and lived to tell the tale.
That slimey, gooey, 'saliva' webbed object of mention is actually rather harmless. Made from soy beans, nattō is the result of adding bacillus natto to the beans and allowing it to ferment. The result is quite interesting, as you can see from above. But this food of Japanese origins is rather popular as a breakfast food in Japan. People mix it with soy sauce, karashi (mustard) and scallions and eat it with plain rice.
I can attempt to describe how it tastes like but I believe that you have to try some for yourself. It's one of those curious foods that everyone wonders how it'll really taste but not many have the guts to dive in. Of course it makes sense because it does look like beans with lots of saliva - that's what my sis keeps saying!
But do you know that nattō is rather healthy because of the enzymes, vitamins and amino acids that are produced during the fermentation process after bacillus natto is added. One common fact is that it contains nattokinase and pyrazine that helps to prevent or lessen blood clots - this in turn prevents heart attacks and strokes.
How's that for starters? Feel like having some now?
or ... not?
Perhaps you can just read on and digest what I have to say, and maybe, just maybe, you'd want to get some nattō the next time you go to the supermarket.
So why nattō? Why talk about it and eat it suddenly? I guess I got too curious. As an avid reader of food blogs/sites/articles, it isn't uncommon to come across plenty of intriguing stuff - and that usually sets my tastebuds in a whirl. Curiousity kills the cat they say but curiousity really just makes me want to try everything I see. Yes, including nattō which looks quite suspect, at first glance. But I knew I had to try it at least once, so I decided to buy the smallest portion available:
from Isetan @ Shaw Towers. I quite like the styrofoam packaging. I was initially surprised that it was so light, but I guess no one would want to down large amounts of nattō at one go.
I bought the nattō on a whim so I didn't really know what to expect or how to eat it. But it was nice to see a packet of soy sauce and karashi to mix it with.
So when I lifted the plastic covering off the nattō, distinct sticky webs started to materialise. This is where you can see and feel just how sticky nattō is. Trust me, it doesn't make washing any easier!
A popular way of eating nattō is really to mix it with soy sauce and karashi. Alot of Japanese like ot mix it with scallions. I doubt anyone really eats it raw. It is afterall, an acquired taste.
To be honest, I expected more out of nattō. I thought it would taste more like miso. Instead, I found that it tasted more like cheese, and when I meant cheese I am certainly not talking about cheddar or your typical sliced cheese. It's got that distinct blue cheese kind of feel - a bit pungent but not too overpowering. However, it really borders on tasteless though, if you eat it without the sauce. Depth of flavour is almost non-existent. So I guess in a way, it isn't fair to compare it with cheese? Hmmm...
I had mine with some rice and to tell you the truth, I really like the sliminess. I'm weird! It gives texture and heightens the fun factor. Trust me when I tell you it's fun... mostly because you'll be struggling to avoid getting those sticky threads from going onto your clothes or hair. Think glue and you know what I mean. Or hmmm mozarella cheese. You know how it is when you try to pull away two ends of melted mozarella cheese? Yea, multiple this by 10 and that's the type of gooey/sticky mess you get when you eat nattō.
Some people hate nattō on their first taste, but I think I could really get used to it, just like these two people who embarked on a Natto Project where they challenged themselves to eat nattō everyday till they started to like it and not find eating it a chore. After about 33 days, they achieved that. Both actually gave themselves a year but apparently, 30 days was all they needed!
Nattō really is a force to be reckoned with. It is quite an understated type of food that deserves more respect and love! Simple but extraordinary. Right, I sound like a nattō ambassador. I doubt this will be my last time eating it. I intend to try out different brands and maybe experiment with different combinations just like the pair who managed to like nattō after eating it for 30 over days.
For more nattō information and tips, check out Wikipedia's nattō definition and explanation or enter Nattoland, a simple website that explains nattō in simple terms.
Or you could always Google or Yahoo it! :)
A'ight, that's enough nattō talk for now. All this protein is making me crave for something sweet. Maybe I'll go have more of that rice pudding I just made last night. More about that really soon!