Japanese Food: Ready or Natto: "Hey, you have to try this!"

Close your eyes.

Wait a second. Don't do that. You can't read with your eyes closed.

P.S. Never do an image search for "oops". You've been warned.

Instead, just imagine this.
Take some soybeans. After soaking them in water for half a day, boil them for almost half a day more. Then...
add spores.

And let it ferment in a warm environment for a full day.

When you're done, you have this:

"Why, those are just soybeans, covered with some kind of sauce or melted cheese!" you say. You've never been so wrong in your life.

Nope. When you ferment soybeans, you do get a cheese-like goo covering the beans. But it's not cheese. It's the goo that comes when you put bacteria on soybeans and keep it warm and wet for a day.

Amanda, my coworker, and I decided to have curry for lunch Friday afternoon. I noticed they had natto curry on the menu, and she wanted to give it a try. She had tried natto before and didn't quite like it, but had previously commented that it might be better when mixed with something else carrying a strong flavor, like curry.

She was really excited about trying natto curry. I guess it was part curry fan, part health nut that was pushing her towards this insanity.
As she mixed the natto, curry, and rice together, I was allowed a small taste. So I grabbed a few beans off the side of her plate with no curry or rice, to give the natto a sporting chance by itself. I noticed that they were kind of gooey - at least, they were covered in the goo caused by fermentation.

'Hmm, not much odor,' I thought to myself as I brought the spoon to my mouth. And that first, small taste wasn't horrible. It certainly reminded me of a strong cheese. With a slimy texture, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it - I told myself I was eating beans and cheese. I figured that with practice and experimentation, I could find a way to enjoy natto and possibly acquire a taste for it. I moved on to my usual stewed chicken curry.

Amanda finished mixing up the natto, took a bite, and immediately pushed the plate away.

Health-nut Amanda. Curry-loving Amanda. Sushi-eating Amanda. "The taste is too strong," she said - or something to that effect. I offered some suggestions - add in pickles, or pick out the beans, etc. Nope. The taste was so bad that she couldn't eat it.

I finished my curry as she picked away the rest of her usual egg-topped salad. I stared hungrily at the whole plate of natto curry she left behind. I love curry so much I feel like I could just eat it all day long.

"Go ahead, try it. I'm not touching it."

Hmm. I had tried just the natto, and didn't think too negatively about it. My mind fought with itself. "It's curry. You LOVE curry. And there's lots of curry sauce in rice. It can't be anywhere near as bad as she thought."

Hmm. I had to give it a shot.

Hmm. Just a small bite.

So, my spoon dug in to the plate. A good bit of rice, curry sauce, and a few natto soybeans. The stringy natto goo hung off the plate, again reminding me of melted cheese.

It has to be good, right?

Yeah. I won't be trying that again. The natto was super strong. It totally overwhelmed the curry flavor. I managed to chew and swallow the whole bite I had taken, but it took a good three cups of water to wash most of the taste out of my mouth.

They say most foreigners don't like natto. I think they are right. Actually, I really want to like it. The hint of cheese flavor means that I could get that craving out of the way in a fairly healthy way. Plus it would be a great way to get more protein into my diet. But I have a feeling Amanda and I are done with natto. Who knows, maybe something better natto-style will be offered to me during my stay here.
But be warned, foreigners. Natto is Japanese vegemite.

No comments:

Post a Comment