Nattō, the dreaded food of the gaijin

Mixed nattō by JD at flickr

Nattō (納豆) has three things going against it: it looks yucky, it stinks and it tastes aweful. Other than that, it’s perfectly edible. Nattō, “translated” into English as “fermented soybeans” is not really as bad as some gaijin like you to believe although even some Japanese stay away from it.

The proper way to get acquainted with this Japanese dish is by having the right attitude, that of a curious gaijin willing to try out other Japanese food less palatable than raw fish eggs.

You can buy nattō in any supermarket in Japan in batches of three. Put the sauce and mustard in, mix it up 30 to 50 times until the whole thing becomes a spidery glob, mix in some spring onions if you like and pour it over a bowl of warm rice. Eat with some other dishes like fried or roasted fish. Don’t forget to twirl your chopsticks once in a while to prevent your table from being covered with those spidery strings.

If you’re more adventurous, Takano Foods, one of the largest makers of nattō in Japan, lists on its webpage a hundred ways of preparing nattō (only in Nihongo), although if you hate fermented soybeans mixing it with other food will hardly stir your appetite.

I once tried having natto for lunch for one straight week; I lasted just five days until I decided I was sick of it. If you think that’s extreme, you should read about the Nattō Project. It looks like they lasted 33 days until they stopped blogging about it.