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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogNatto: The Infamous Fermented Soybeans of Japan

Natto: The Infamous Fermented Soybeans of Japan

By Kartini Suadi
February 05, 2020

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Every country has its own, unique culinary traditions and unique dishes to serve the world. In Japan, you can find lots of uniquely delicious foods such as tempura, yakitori, okonomiyaki, miso soup, Japanese style curry, etc. One dish beloved by locals, but less commonly known abroad, is natto. Visually speaking, natto can be intimidating. The sticky, stringy texture is something that many of us are unfamiliar with. How could something so strange be so delicious? Let's find out! We’re in this together. 

What is natto?

Basically, natto is fermented soybean. Often referred to as a "superfood", the variety of Bacillus Subtilis bacteria it contains makes it an excellent probiotic. Natto has a unique aroma and sticky, gooey texture. This often causes a less than enthusiastic response from first timers. You may even think to yourself, “Can you really eat that?”. 

Don’t be afraid! We can assure you that natto is one of the most interesting Japanese foods you can try. It’s rich in nutritional value, thought to protect against strokes and heart attacks, and is even considered to have stress relieving properties! If you’re planning on visiting Japan, let's add natto on your bucket list! It could be a lifesaver, afterall. 

How is natto made?

Natto is usually prepared by wrapping soybeans in rice straw and then allowing them to ferment naturally. When opening the straw, you may be taken aback by the pungent smell and sticky texture, but this is exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to natto. You can check the picture below to see what we mean.

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As for the flavor, some may say natto is more of an…acquired taste; however, most Japanese grow up eating natto and it is beloved by locals of all ages. While often prepared over hot rice with a dab of soy sauce and fresh green onions, it can also be enjoyed straight from the package. Next time you’re in Japan, give it a shot and see for yourself. 

Must know natto facts!

Japanese people usually eat natto for breakfast! Extremely cheap, quick, and easy to prepare, it’s not hard to see why so many Japanese are utterly in love with natto. 

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  • You can easily find natto at any convenience store! Packaged with a specific sauce to stir up, it’s a quick and easy snack or meal whenever you need it. Check out what we mean in the photo below. 

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  • You can even use natto in a variety of foods like sushi, omelettes, fried rice and soups … even pasta! Okay, now we’re getting hungry.

Now that you’ve been acquainted with natto, would you dare to try it? If you already have, what did you think? Do you have any awesome natto food hacks you think we should try? Let us know in the comments below!

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