I was just going to eat some natto with my rice on July 10 in honor of Natto Day, but my friend suggested that I try cooking with natto, and I'm glad I did. If you already love natto, then you might wonder why you would take a perfectly malodorous, gooey batch of fermented soybeans and do anything with it besides eat it out of the box. As it turns out, natto is delicious in other cooking preparations as well. The heat takes some of the pungency out of the beans and transforms them into savory, cheese-like nuggets.
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Imagine biting into a freshly fried spring roll, its shell breaking off in crispy, golden-brown shards to a piping-hot center of natto beans. The taste is still distinctly natto-esque, but with a kind of maturity and softness that is really pleasant.
For some eaters, natto belongs in the nasty bits category of vegetarian fare. Both beloved and reviled, the fermented soybeans are a staple in traditional Japanese cuisine. To make natto, soybeans are cooked for many hours, then inoculated with bacteria and left to ferment in a temperature-controlled fermentation room. But the smell of natto—like a cross between ammonia and rank Camembert cheese—can be off-putting to those without a love for funky tastes and smells.
The Great Natto Diet Rush: The sticky road to weight loss (maybe). Maki Itoh discusses natto's sudden trendiness in Japan as a potential weight loss wonder food—somewhat bizarre news when you consider that natto is a very stinky dish of cooked, fermented soybeans, the kind of food that even the Japanese will refer to as "an acquired taste". (Masaharu Morimoto won the Iron Chef Natto Battle with an array of dishes that included a dessert of "sweetened natto soaked in Coca Cola and served in coconut milk", which to be frank, I find terrifying. Brave man to make it, but trusting judges to eat it!)...