Monday, September 5, 2011

Natto Three Ways

Natto and green onions over rice

Natto over rice with a fried egg -- yummy yolk

Natto over rice with slices of tomatoes and egg scramble with broccoli
The reason for the elaborate possibilities of natto--hahaha, well only 3--is because of an episode of "chopped” on the food network that aired in the spring.  One of the secret ingredients the chefs were supposed to use was natto.  For all you peeps who are unaware of what natto is, it is fermented soy beans with a very strong yeasty, sticky, stringy texture—mixed with soy sauce, and sometimes spicy mustard/green onions/nori (dried seaweed).  For the novice natto consumer, this tasty treat, that I could eat all day long, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, is quite a turn off.  Conversely, natto is such a simple, nutritious, daily snack in Japanese culture.  Some research even suggests that the components in natto fight cancer as well as provide other beneficial outcomes.  I will not bore you with all the details, but natto also comes with a fascinating back-story…at least as my father tells it…here goes: long ago, when Samurais roamed the earth on horseback and carriages, one such Samurai’s wife sent him off traveling with homemade food.  One such dish was cooked soy beans.  Because it was so cold in the back of the carriage, as time passed, the soy beans turned into natto.  Even though the Samurai thought the soy beans were rotten and inedible when he saw the stringy texture, and smelled the yeasty stench, he was so hungry from the long journey that he ate it anyway.  To his pleasure, it was delicious.  Of course I know now that this story is probably not true because the process of natto creation can take months underground in the winter (well there are factories nowadays that can do this quicker for us.)

Ok, back to my original reason for writing this post…in the episode of chopped, I was quite disturbed when all of the chefs on the show butchered the natto by grinding it up in a blender and placing a measly bit of it as sauce on the plate, so as not to offend the commoner’s pallet.  A true natto connoisseur (which I do consider myself) would not have made such an offense.  So here I present 3 ways you can try natto.  Another way that is easy on the pallet for the novice is natto-maki, or natto sushi roles—less slime.  You can also get dried natto in little packets without the slime or smell.  "Americans" even eat a product called Tempeh, which is dried soybean clumps, quite similar to dried natto, the difference that I have seen is that dried natto comes like dried peanuts, and Tempeh comes in clumps of dried fermented soy beans.  So I leave you with this thought, how can a chef be a true chef without knowing about natto?!?  That is all I have to say about that at this time.  

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