I didn’t like natto. It looks disgusting, it smells disgusting, it sounds disgusting, it was disgusting. Focus on was. People say it is an “acquired taste” and that’s basically true. Because now I actually eat natto from time to time and even enjoy it! (Read my blog post about eating natto) And you should eat it too, because natto has many health-benefits, that you don’t want to lose out on! What benefits and how you can you become able to eat it? At the end of this article you will have the answer to all of those questions!
What Is Natto?
Natto is made from soybeans which were fermented with bacteria called “Bacillus subtilis natto”. Natto is known for its distinctive stinky-cheese like smell and it’s weird texture. The thing is Japanese people love their food, but natto is different. It’s something that everybody I ask either loves or hates. And because the Japanese are so fond of their food they will always ask you if you like Japanese food. If you answer with “yes” the next question will definetely be: “Do you like natto?” Don’t make the same mistake as I did. Because at the first host family my host mother asked me if I had eaten natto before. I replied that I haven’t eaten it before and the next day I had natto for breakfast. That’s when natto is usually eaten. The thing is it was basically my first week in Japan and I simply didn’t want natto for breakfast.
Why Even Eat Natto?
That’s a simple one! It’s healthy. According to a study most people that eat natto regularly eat, do it for its health benefits. So what health benefits? Natto contains iron, calcium and magnesium, as well as protein, which are essential for building muscles. Natto also contains the vitamins B6, B2, E and K2. Vitamin K2 is said to improve bone health and is hardly ever found in other foods. If that doesn’t convince you, I’ll list a few of its health benefits.
- Bone health
- Heart Health
- Good for your skin
- Improves digestion
- Helps your immune system
- Helps build muscles
- Reduces blood clots
- Reduces the risk of heart attacks
- Reduces the risk of strokes
- Might prevent alzheimers
- Might prevent cancer
If you aren’t convinced now I don’t know what will convince you.
Where To Find It
Well that depends on where you live. If you are fortunate enough to live in Japan, finding natto is fairly easy. You can find a huge natto section in every supermarket. You won’t even know which natto to buy. Besides the normal natto you may also find things like natto tofu.
Typically natto is sold in small plastic-like boxes each containing about 45 grams of natto. Also in the container are soy sauce and mustard. 3 packs of natto usually cost around 80 to 100 Yen and stay fresh for up to two weeks. But you have to put them in the fridge. Which means that sadly natto isn’t the best souvenir to bring back home from your trip to Japan.
So if you can’t get it from your friend who is currently on vacation in Japan, how else can you get natto if you aren’t currently living in Japan? Well that’s where things get a bit difficult, but don’t worry. There are four possible ways to get natto:
- Go to an Asian/Japanese store.
- Buy online:
- USA: haven’t found anything yet sorry.
- Make it yourself (here is an article I found on making natto)
- Sign up for the newsletter and get the chance to win natto*
I hope I could help you find natto or even a new recipe that you want to try out next weekend. So let’s now get on how to eat and also enjoy it.
How To Enjoy Natto
The way to go is combining it! That’s actually how I did it. The first time I ate natto (not the same time as the first time I saw it) I made the mistake to eat it without anything combined. And by that being fully exposed to its “nebaneba” (that’s how you call it that it makes sticky strings you can see in the gif below), smell and taste.
There are actually a few ways to combine natto with something else, and I will bring you all off them a bit closer. Some are better for nattobeginners others are worse. I’ll go into detail with each of them and also recommend you which one is the best.
Here are a few ways to eat natto (you can click on them to jump right to each section):
Eat it (almost) like it comes out of the box. That means together with soy sauce and mustard. If you like you can also put some negi (green onion) on top.
The Easy Way
You think a tuna onigiri is boring. You really like natto but are currently on the go. Don’t worry the conbini is your friend and helper. Three ingredients: seawheat, rice and of course natto, make the natto sushi roll which you can find at your closest conbini and will cost you about 120 Yen. I would rate it a 5/10, you definetely taste the natto, but I find the combination of natto with sewheat and rice not that delicious.
The most popular way of consuming natto when eating out: Sushi. It’s similar to the sushi roll from the convinience store in many ways. The ingredients are more or less the same but I made it a category on its own, because the natto sushi is often served in restaurants and isn‘t prepared like a sushi roll. Sadly I haven’t tried natto sushi yet since I haven‘t seen it anywhere yet. The reason for this might be that I am in the western part of Japan while natto is consumed more in the eastern part. I will definitely keep an eye open in the next few weeks and see if I can find natto sushi. If so I will update this post.
Egg, Rice And Soy Sauce
Maybe one of the best ways of eating natto besides and also one of the “most digestable” ways is together with raw egg, rice and soy-sauce. Together the flavour gets a bit decreased which makes this nattoalternative great for nattobeginners. And like my host mother said: “It makes the perfectly balanced meal.” Because it contains everything you need. Carbohydrates from the rice, protein and fat from the egg and natto. On top of that all the vitamins that I’ve mentioned earlier. And besides that I find it tasty. Especially if you mix in sesame seeds as well.
Okonomiyaki – the Japanese pancake or also pizza made from batter, cabbage and technically any other ingrediants you’d like. The word is made up of okonomi meaning “to one’s liking” and yaki meaning “grilled”. The dish is very popular in the Kansai region and can be found almost everywhere. Besides the Osaka or Kansai version there’s also the Hiroshimayaki. Where the ingridients are layered instead of mixed. Here is an article going more into okonomiyaki.
But let’s get to the natto variant. I would say that this is one of the harder ways of eating natto that I would only recommend to people that have eaten natto before or people that are just crazy. Because if you heat natto up its taste gets even stronger. Not what you want if you are eating it for the first time. And I personally also didn’t really like it. But if you want the full natto experience this is a must try natto dish!
To Sum It Up
The best ways to enjoy natto are:
- Together with egg, rice and soy sauce
- Sushi roll
- Natto on its own
So that rounds it up! I’m surprised if you are still here and haven’t already headed off to the next super market to buy yourself a year long supply of natto (which I wouldn’t recommend since natto stays fresh for about 2 weeks). I hope you have learned now how to eat and also enjoy natto. If you are to eat it in the near future or have already tried it, please leave a comment on how you liked it. And also tell me how you ate it.
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*The natto give away is only available in Japan and Switzerland. Full name and address are requiered.