How About This: Natto: A Japanese Specialty Food That Will Leave You Astonished!


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Until now, the most famous Japanese cuisine might be sushi and ramen. However, there are actually many more traditional Japanese foods worth trying, including natto. Natto is a fermented food made from boiled soybeans that are fermented with Bacillus subtilis natto bacteria. Due to its chewy texture and strong smell, this food may surprise many people when they try it. But don't let that stop you from trying it, as natto has many health benefits and good nutrition for the body. Let's explore more about this Japanese specialty food that will leave you astonished.

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Table of Contents:

1. What is Natto and How is it Made?

2. What Makes Natto Different from Other Fermented Foods?

3. How to Serve Natto and What Foods is it Usually Served With?

4. What are the Health Benefits of Natto?

5. Recommendations for Trying Natto for Those Who Have Never Tried it Before.

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What is Natto and How is it Made?

Natto is a Japanese specialty food made from boiled soybeans that are fermented with Bacillus subtilis natto bacteria. The fermentation process gives the soybeans a chewy texture, unique aroma, and distinctive flavor.

To make natto, the soybeans are first cleaned and soaked in water for several hours to soften them. Then, they are boiled for around 4 hours until they are tender, dried, and wrapped in bamboo leaves or paper. Next, the soybeans are placed in a fermentation box and sprayed with a Bacillus subtilis natto inoculum. The fermentation box is then kept at a warm temperature (around 40 degrees Celsius) for about 24 hours.

During the fermentation process, Bacillus subtilis natto produces protease enzymes that convert the protein in the soybeans into amino acids that are more easily digested by the body. This enzyme also produces vitamin K2, which is essential for bone and heart health.

Once the fermentation process is complete, natto will have a distinctive aroma, savory taste, and chewy texture. Typically, natto is served with rice and side dishes, or mixed with soy sauce and spices. Natto can also be mixed with raw eggs and served as a healthy and delicious breakfast dish.

Although natto is not very common outside of Japan, it can now be made at home by purchasing a Bacillus subtilis natto starter and following the instructions on the package. However, it is important to be careful during the natto-making process to avoid contamination by other bacteria.

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What Makes Natto Different from Other Fermented Foods?

Natto stands out from other fermented foods in terms of its unique aroma, taste, and texture. Firstly, natto has a distinct and strong smell that comes from volatile compounds produced during the fermentation process. The smell can be somewhat pungent, like cheese or feet, which may surprise some people upon first trying it.

Secondly, natto has a savory and slightly salty taste with a characteristic tang. This is also due to the compounds produced during fermentation by the Bacillus subtilis natto bacteria. While it may not suit everyone's taste buds, many Japanese people enjoy the taste of natto and even consider it a favorite food.

Lastly, natto's texture is also very different from other fermented foods. Soybeans are boiled and wrapped in bamboo leaves or paper, then fermented with Bacillus subtilis natto. The result is a very chewy, web-like texture that is slightly sticky when eaten. This chewy texture is also a hallmark of natto.

In addition, natto has different nutritional content than other fermented foods. Natto has higher levels of vitamin K2 and protease enzymes compared to other fermented foods. Vitamin K2 is essential for bone and heart health, while protease enzymes can aid in protein digestion in the body.

Although natto may not be liked by everyone due to its strong aroma and chewy texture, it has many health benefits and is a favorite food in Japan.


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How to Serve Natto and What Foods is it Usually Served With?

There are many ways to serve natto depending on personal preference. Here are some common ways to enjoy natto:

  • With rice: Natto goes well with white rice. Just add natto on top of the rice and mix well. This is the most common way to enjoy natto in Japan.
  • With vegetables: Natto also tastes great mixed with vegetables such as lettuce or green vegetables like spinach. You can add soy sauce or salted soy sauce as seasoning.
  • With noodles: Natto can also be served with soba or ramen noodles. Just mix natto with the noodles and stir well.
  • As a topping: Natto can also be used as a topping for other foods such as sushi or onigiri.

When serving natto, carefully open the bamboo leaves or paper wrapping and pour natto into a bowl. Then mix the natto well. You can also add sliced green onions or spices according to taste.

However, it should be noted that not everyone likes the strong aroma and chewy texture of natto. Therefore, for those who are new to natto, it is recommended to try a small amount first to see if they like it or not.

What are the Health Benefits of Natto?

Natto is a highly nutritious food known to have many health benefits. Here are some of the health benefits of natto:

  • Improving heart health: Natto contains an enzyme called nattokinase that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. This enzyme works by breaking down blood clots and helping to prevent blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes.
  • Improving digestion: Natto contains fiber that can help improve digestion and reduce constipation.
  • Lowering cholesterol: Natto contains a compound called isoflavone that can help lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood.
  • Boosting the immune system: Natto contains probiotics that can help boost the immune system and reduce the risk of infection.
  • Improving bone health: Natto contains vitamin K2, which can help improve bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
  • Improving skin health: Natto contains vitamin E, which is beneficial for maintaining skin health and preventing premature aging.
  • Improving mental health: Natto contains vitamin B12, which can help improve mental health and reduce the risk of depression.

However, it is important to remember that natto also has a strong taste and aroma that not everyone may enjoy. Therefore, it is recommended to try a small amount first and see if your body reacts well and does not cause an allergic reaction before consuming it in larger amounts.

Recommendations for Trying Natto for Those Who Have Never Tried it Before.

For those who have never tried natto before, here are some recommendations to safely enjoy its taste:

  • Start with a small serving: Natto has a strong flavor and aroma, so it is recommended to try it in small portions at first. Begin with one or two teaspoons and see how your body reacts.
  • Serve with ingredients that can balance its strong flavor and aroma: You can try serving natto with rice, soy sauce, or spices like scallions and sesame seeds. These ingredients can help balance the strong flavor and aroma of natto.
  • Mix it with other foods: You can mix natto with vegetables like lettuce or tomatoes to enhance the flavor and texture of the food.
  • Try natto in different dishes: Besides eating it directly, natto can also be mixed with noodles or fried together with vegetables.
  • Don't let its texture bother you: Natto's slimy texture can be off-putting to some people. If you're uncomfortable with its texture, try mixing it with more solid foods like rice or vegetables.
  • Give it a chance: You may not like natto on your first try, but don't give up. Try it several times with different dishes and small portions until you find the right way to enjoy it.

By following these recommendations, you can safely try natto and enjoy its health benefits. However, if you have a history of soy or fermented food allergies or intolerances, it is recommended to consult a doctor before trying natto.


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