I remember the first time I tasted nattō. It was not on the menu. My roommate Niki, at Naropa University, inquired with our server at Hapa Sushi. Niki was cooler than me—a golden girl with a Volvo station wagon. She introduced me to midwifery, pairing gouda with basil and told great stories about hiking through Big Sur. She was into nattō . “It’s got this stringiness, like cheese” she said pulling at the long sticky strands unique to nattō wrapped in sushi rolls. I wanted to be into it, so I ate it too. The rest is history.
Nattō is a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans fermented with a special strain of bacteria called Bacillus Subtilis var. Nattō. IT IS NOT TEMPEH. Say it with me, nattō is NOT tempeh. In Japan, nattō is sometimes eaten as a breakfast food served with mustard, soy sauce and green onion over a bed of rice. To make nattō the Japanese use special low temperature, moist ovens they use to ferment the beans to perfection.
So why would you eat Nattō? It has been touted for being a nutrient dense source of PROTEIN. It is one of the food’s richest in vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 plays an important role in bone formation and eating nattō may prevent osteoperosis. It’s also useful for blood clotting and heart health. Nattō also has substantial amounts of iron and vitamin c! Also there is the street credit
You might find it with the cooks in the back of your local Japanese restaurant if you ask (and unless your server is Japanese they may not know what you are talking about). Most Asian groceries carry it frozen.
When frozen, it looks like this:
The frozen packets are great aside from usually coming in styrofoam. Included usually is two packets of seasoning: one a kind of spicy sweet oil and the other a kind of mustard. Once the nattō is room temperature, it mixes with the packets easily and tastes especially good served with warm rice.
In Candice Kumai’s book, Kintsugi Wellness (which I LOVE) I was very excited to see a recipe for enjoying nattō. I made it and found the flavor for natto to be underwhelming Without serious flavor nattō reminds me a bit of stale farts. If you are a beginner to nattō I would recommend using the seasoning packets that come or doing an intense spicy/sweet mixture of mustard, hot sesame oil/ honey/ tamari soy sauce.