What goes well with Japanese natto
Natto: the fermentation makes the difference
Natto is a Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans. In this Asian country it is often enriched with mustard, soy sauce and spring onions. This creates a tasty dish that is usually eaten with rice. To make the natto dish, the soybeans are boiled and then infused with the Bacillus subtilis type bacterium. A fermentation process begins that lasts 24 hours. It is responsible for the extraordinary texture of the food and its distinctive taste. If you try to lift a little natto with a spoon, you will immediately notice the stringy consistency. It reminds a bit of a cheese fondue. A taste of the fermented soybeans reveals a true taste explosion, which is characterized by a variety of flavors. The fermentation produces fine aromas and a clear umami note.
It is undoubtedly a dish that will divide opinions: does it taste good or does it taste bad? In any case, it is worthwhile to attempt the Natto experiment. By the way: It is also a meal for vegans and vegetarians. To make sure that no fish products such as bonito have been used for seasoning, it helps to take a look at the ingredient lists at the German retailer.
Four types of natto
Natto can be made from a wide variety of soybeans. However, they can all be divided into four different types of natto with regard to the production method:
- Itohiki-Nattō - the sticky natto: This is a natto variant that pulls threads extremely strongly. This is the addition of Bacillus subtilis ssp. Thanks to natto for triggering the fermentation process.
- Hikiwari-Nattō - Natto made from broken beans: This is a subspecies of Itohiki-Nattō. With him, the beans are loosened from the seed coat and split.
- Goto-Nattō - fermented twice: With this natto variant, the food is fermented a second time with the Japanese mold Kōji and table salt.
- Tera-Nattō - Temple-Nato, Shiokara-Nattō - salty Nattō, Hamanattō and Daitokuji-Nattō: These are all Natto types that have been inoculated with the mold Kōji. Your soybeans are salted and dried.
Strictly speaking, the fourth type of natto is not a classic natto. This is because the fermentation does not use any natto bacteria. For this reason, there is also no stringy texture for which the food is so famous.
Differentiation of the natto types according to the bean size
In addition to the production method, it is possible to differentiate natto by bean size. Reference is made to the diameter of the bean before cooking:
- large beans: at least 7.9 mm
- medium beans: between 7.3 and 7.9 mm
- small beans: between 5.5 and 7.3 mm
- extra small beans: between 4.9 and 5.5 mm
Origin of Natto: Legends and Scientific Studies
The origin of natto and the preparation of the food is not certain. There are numerous theories, some of which even date back to around the year 200 AD. Even then, the Japanese had all the ingredients to create this exceptional culinary delight: rice straw, soybeans and bacteria. The bacterium used for fermentation has been proven to have existed for over three million years. Some historians believe that natto was discovered by accident while growing rice. However, there is no evidence for these assumptions, which is why they are only based on legends.
Whenever this dish has enriched Japanese cuisine, one thing is certain: the first scientific work on natto fermentation was published in 1894. From around 1868 onwards, Japan opened up to the western world and thus to its scientific knowledge. This boosted local research. The microbiologist Kikuji Yabe provided the basis for the industrial production of natto through his treatise on the fermentation process in the late 19th century. Over the decades, more and more sophisticated production processes followed, which accelerated production. As a result, more and more natto products came onto the Japanese market, where the food was enriched with almonds, for example, or based on barley and brown rice.
Natto in the world and in Germany
Natto is a classic Japanese product, which is nowhere near as famous as sushi. It is not produced commercially in Europe. However, the high proportion of the Japanese population in Hawaii meant that the first Natto products were made on American soil in this island kingdom in 1933. Production later spilled over to California and thus to the mainland. Since 1984 there have been six manufacturers of Natto in the USA, three of which are still based in Hawaii. The others have manufacturing facilities in California, Arkansas, and Massachusetts. Natto can be ordered from specialist dealers in Germany. Original products from Japan, which are said to be among the best, can be obtained from him.
Soybeans for natto don't always come from Japan
A particularly interesting aspect in the production of natto is the origin of the beans. Less than five percent of the beans used for production thrive in Japan. Even the Asian country itself exports soybeans from Canada, China and the USA to make natto in their domestic factories. It should be noted here that not all soybeans are created equal. There are a total of 400 different types that can be used for natto dishes. Some exporters abroad produce their own soybeans, which are adapted to the palate of the Japanese.
Enjoy natto in Germany
Thanks to Japanese online shops, the food can be bought as frozen goods in Germany. It is packed in packets, which are often accompanied by soy sauces or mustard bags. These additions are there to spice up natto a little more. The dish can also be enriched with spring onions and eggs. The Japanese enjoy the food at room temperature on rice. But it also goes very well with sushi. Another alternative is to use natto as a filler for Japanese miso soup. Two western serving suggestions are: natto as a creamy spread or as a topping on noodles with very fine nori seaweed. The possibilities are therefore diverse and there are no limits to the imagination.
Ingredients: Natto is very healthy
Why should one get involved in the taste adventure natto? In addition to curiosity and the joy of the extraordinary, the high nutritional value of the food is an excellent reason. It is a real superfood. It is rich in the enzyme nattokinase and dipiclonic acid, both of which can develop an antibacterial effect against bacterial strains such as Escherichia coli and Helicobacter pylori. The proportion of vitamin K2 is also high. This K vitamin is particularly important in connection with a vitamin D supplementation. It can promote the storage of calcium in the bones. Other nutrients it contains are:
- vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Pantothenic acid
- Folic acid
The nutrient list is therefore immense. Due to this nutrient composition, Natto can make a positive contribution to well-being and directly promote the state of health. Consumed regularly, the food can prove to be a preventive measure against symptoms such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, stomach ulcers and thrombi. By the way: The high nutritional value in the fermented beans ensures that there are even natto capsules. They are now available in Germany.
For those who find the fermented beans too smell or taste too intense, there are of course also normal beans of all kinds that are part of the cuisine in Japan, which can also be ordered online here.
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