While in Koyasan, we took the opportunity to try natto. For those who haven’t heard of the almightly natto, natto is made from soybeans. The soybeans are soaked in water, steamed for several hours, and then are mixed with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis natto. Next, the beans are fermented for a couple of days and then aged in a refrigerator for up to one week.
As a result of fermentation and aging, the beans develop a pungent smell, similar to a strong cheese, and a sticky, glue-like consistency. Natto is commonly eaten with rice at breakfast.
Still, you don’t know whether you’ll like or dislike something until you try it – so we purchased a pack at a local convenience store. It was cheap – 100 yen for two small polystyrene packs.
We took it back to our room, and opened the lid. It didn’t look that bad. Inside the packet were a small sachet of soy sauce and mustard. We opened both packets and poured them in and started mixing. Mixing the natto produces lots of mucus like strings and the natto becomes stickier and stringier.
When we pulled some beans out of the packet, long spider web like strings of mucus followed it. It really isn’t the most attractive foodstuff out there!
The taste itself wasn't particularly nice – the beans were quite bland and didn’t have much flavour but I thought there was an slight bitter aftertaste that I found off putting. The texture was not pleasant either, with the mucus like strings ensuring that we didn't eat more than a couple of bites.
Natto is apparently very popular in Japan. I’m sure that, similar to other strong smelling/flavoured food, it’s just an acquired taste. However, I don’t think I’ll be taking the time to acquire it!
So next time someone suggests natto – I will be saying nattNo. No thanks!