Natto is perhaps one of Japan’s most contentious foods. Made from bacteria-fermented aged soybeans, natto has a strong odor similar to some types of pungent smelling cheeses. The odor combined with the slimy, stringy texture of the fermented beans makes natto an acquired taste for many and strong opinions both for and against the food abound. Strong odor and unusual texture aside, natto is extremely healthy. The bacteria used for the fermentation make for an excellent digestive pro-biotic and is high in calcium, vitamin K2, fiber, and other micro nutrients found to bolster immune health.
Natto is most often eaten over fresh rice as a breakfast food. Vigorously stirring it after removing it from the package enhances the stringy and sticky aspects of the texture and adds a slight fluffiness that makes the beans easier to pull apart. Natto is usually topped with thinly sliced green onion, karashi mustard, and soy sauce, and occasionally as part of the common Japanese breakfast food tamagokaki gohan, with raw egg.
The history of natto is somewhat obscure, with several different legends citing its origin. Though the details leading up to the creation of natto differ from story to story, according to each legend natto was discovered accidentally by allowing boiled soybeans to ferment in straw. Straw is a natural source of the bacteria bacillus subtilius, the bacteria responsible for the unique stringy fermentation of natto. Advances in science in the early 20th century led to the creation of natto starter cultures, eliminating the need for straw and allowing for mass production and consistent results. Today natto is sold in Styrofoam containers with each package containing 2-4 single serving sized trays. Small packets of soy sauce and karashi mustard are often included for the sake of tasty convenience.
Here at Maido, we have several different kinds of natto available for purchase. They vary slightly in texture, smell and flavor, so refer to the following guide to determine which is right for you!
Kokusan Kotsubu Natto- A pretty basic home-style natto. It has smaller beans for a smoother texture.
Organic Natto Zanmai- An organic natto with a more concentrated, stronger flavor.
Hokkaido Kotsubu Natto- A small-beaned, smoother textured natto using soybeans grown in Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido.
Kin Tsubu Toromame Natto- A pretty basic natto in terms of flavor that features larger, golden beans.
Kin Tsubu Kurozu Natto- This natto features bright golden beans seasoned with black vinegar for a more sour and complex taste.
Kokusan Kita no Suzu Natto- A small-beaned natto featuring beans from Hokkaido.
Mukashi Kokusan Natto- a small-beaned natto prepared in the traditional style.
Sumibi Dashi Tsuyu Natto- Natto made by being heated over a charcoal fire and flavored with dashi broth.
Fukkura Hokkaido Kotsubu Natto- a plump, but still small beaned natto made with soybeans from Hokkaido.
Organic Goku Tsubu Natto- an organically produced natto with a high number of smaller beans per package.
Niowa Natto- a natto produced with a less strong smell making it a good option for people who are new to eating natto and maybe trying it for the first time. Each package comes with seasoning packets of karashi mustard and soy sauce.