An unusual Japanese soyfood is natto, fermented soybeans. Delicious in a traditional Japanese breakfast. This would usually be served with a bowl of plain white Japanese short grain rice, a bowl of miso shiru, some sheets of toasted nori, some Tsukemono (Japanese Pickles) or Kimchi and perhaps some grilled tofu or fish.
With the tips of your hashi (chopsticks), whip the natto about until it becomes lacy. Pick up a bit of rice with a sheet of nori and put a bit of natto on top. Close the nori and pop the package in your mouth.
Natto has a strong flavour, much like a Stilton or Roquefort cheese. If you find the flavour too potent, add some shoyu (soy sauce) and minced scallions. Also, the more that you whip it, the more that the ammonia element of the fragrance dissipates and the "sliminess" vanishes. The Nihon Hoso Kyokai (NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation) aired a special program on natto in late 1998 which said that mixing natto 424 times (don't ask) removes its "sliminess".
The beans which are used are soy. The fermentation process makes natto a rich source of vitamin B and other nutrients. It is thought to be effective in prevention of heart attacks, strokes and osteoporosis, as well as food poisoning and intestinal disorders. It can be heated but an enzyme called nattokinase, natto's blood clot dissolving agent, is destroyed at temperatures above 70 degrees C, so it is best eaten raw.
And it is delicious. How about mixing some shoyu and scallions into natto and spreading in the hollow of peeled and halved avocado? Call it "California Natto".
If you like this, you might want to go to How Many Ways Can You Say "It's Stuff Made From Soy"?
If you have rice-straw lying about your apartment, you could make it the traditional way. If not, you can use a bit of some purchased natto as a starter.
- two cups dried soybeans
- one package commercial natto
What to do:
1. Soak two cups of dried soybeans overnight in ten cups of water.
2. Put the soybeans in a stainless steel basket (or colander) and cover it with a piece of cloth slightly larger than the basket.
3. Put the above in a pressure cooker with 3 cups water, and place it on the stove. Turn on the stove.
4. After the pressure cooker starts hissing, turn down the flame so that the hissing is at its minimum level.
5. Cook for 15 minutes (measured from the time that hissing noise started).
6. DO NOT OPEN the pressure cooker yet. Ack! Allow the pressure cooker and its contents to cool down. Or at least place the pressure cooker in the sink filled with cold water. (The soy beans are considered to have cooled down as long as its temperature is below 140 degrees F.)
7. Make sure that the kitchen counter and its surrounding area are absolutely clean. Sterilize a tablespoon with boiling water.
8. Wash your hands and arms - long-sleeved shirts not recommended.
9. Have a package of commercial natto ready.
10. Open the lid of the pressure cooker, peel back the cloth cover to one end of the basket, and using the tablespoon, quickly mix in about two spoonfuls of natto starter with the beans. Replace the cloth cover.
11. Close the pressure cooker lid with its air relief hole uncovered.
12. Place the cooker in a picnic ice-chest and place an electric heating pad over it. Replace the ice-chest cover.
The natto will be ready in between 24 and 48 hours, depending on the temperature of the heating pad. As an alternate heat source, a 7.5-watt lightbulb may be used. If you don't have a pressure cooker, a regular pot may be used. In this case, the cooking time will need to be increased to about two hours, and the amount of cooking water to about six cups.