Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Natto, Miracle Food

There are a lot of great foods out there, it's true. But one of the very best is natto.

Never heard of it? That's because it's well-known mainly in Japan, and even then it often gets a bad reputation because people don't give it a fair chance.

Natto is fermented soybeans, and it is well known for being stringy and having an odd texture to it. It has incredible health benefits, especially for vegetarians, but really natto is for everyone. If eaten only a few times a week, one can enjoy its amazing benefits. There has been an immense amount of research into this miraculous food, and everything has shown how fantastic it is.

One site online with more information about natto can be found here. You can make natto easily enough at home, but it's even easier to buy commercial natto. I would recommend going for Shirakiku brand with 'タレなし' which is to say, 'no tare'. Tare is a word meaning the sauce that is usually included with natto. Oftentimes the tare includes fish, which is something that isn't too good for those of us avoiding it. Usually it's limited to being a part of the sauce, which is contained in a separate packet and not pre-added to the natto (because the natto ferments in the package), but it's best to avoid it altogether. You can use your own preferred soy sauce, and then you'll be used to that aspect of the flavour already!

Shirakiku, as well as some other brands of natto, include a packet of mustard as well. Japanese mustard is different from Western mustard, and it has a different taste to it. I also find that Japanese mustard, mixed with natto, completely neutralises the flavour. It has pretty much no taste with the mustard mixed in, so the flavours must cancel each other out. It's very strange. But if you find yourself overwhelmed by the taste of natto, try adding the little mustard packet to it.

One thing that is important to note is that natto is best when it is cooler than room temperature. Natto is best not warmed, which is what some people don't understand. Even many Japanese people will traditionally heat natto. But it is best cool, from the refrigerator. Many people are turned off by the strong scent of natto when it is heated, but it need not be heated to be enjoyed. Greater nutritional benefits are said to be derived from cool natto.

Another thing to remember when you are first trying natto is this: do not stir it. At all. Eat it directly as it is. It may be stringy, but the strands are easily whipped around your chopsticks. Stirring natto makes it more gooey, which can be appealing to some. But it is an acquired taste and texture when stirred, whereas it is much easier to adjust to when not.

Opinions vary on how many times to stir natto. Some say that 30-50 times will produce an ideal natto texture. Others have insisted that 424 times will produce the best natto. If you want to try, you'll be sure to get some exercise out of it!

One way to serve natto that is very popular in Japan is to break a raw egg atop it and stir it all together. This reduces the gooey texture of natto and also complements the flavour. Typically soy sauce is also added to this. It is an even more nutritious dish when served this way, but remember not to heat the natto and not to let the egg get to room temperature. If you must try this, make sure your eggs are refrigerated and make sure your natto is chilled below room temperature. It is very important to take every care when consuming uncooked foods.

Natto has been called a 'vegetable cheese', which is essentially what it is. It has a rich taste that is especially enjoyable once one becomes accustomed to it, and it is a nutritious and exciting dish for breakfast or any time of the day. It is so healthy and so fun to eat...I hope you'll give it a try!

Just remember my tips and give it a chance. You don't have to eat all of it at one time. Eat it chilled, unstirred, and slowly ease into any other way of eating it. Add mustard if the taste is too much, at first. Don't forget to add soy sauce too, because that will round the flavour nicely.

Enjoy your healthy food!

};) Dhiar <3