by Yukari Sakamoto
Nattō, fermented soybeans known for their stinky aroma and a slimy texture, is one food that may be hard for a non-Japanese person to appreciate. Popular at breakfast in Japan, nattō is stirred with chopsticks until thick and sticky. Soy sauce and Japanese mustard may be added before the nattō is spooned over a bowl of rice. Condiments—such as grated daikon, leeks, bonito flakes, sea vegetables, pickled apricots (umeboshi), Japanese basil, and in some parts of Japan, apples or sugar—may be added. Dried nattō with nori and other seasonings is often sprinkled over hot rice. Dried nattō beans are a popular beer snack.
Not all nattō is the same. It varies according to the size of the beans (large, medium, or small), whether the beans are chopped or not, and the type of bean used. Most nattō is sold in plastic containers, but nattō wrapped in straw will have a richer aroma, texture, and flavor.
Nattō can also be used as a topping for pasta, or as a filling for deep-fried tōfu parcels, or as an addition to fried rice or an omelet. In another dish, called bakudan (literally, "bomb"), nattō is mixed with a raw egg yolk, okra, slimy potato, squid, and raw tuna—the result is a very healthy, very slippery, very slimy mixture that is eaten over rice.
Devotees of nattō use special nattō chopsticks that are designed to make the nattō stickier when stirred.
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This page created September 2010
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