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what do you like about natto?

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tonight i tried natto for the second time. the first was in japan in 1999, and i didn't care for it at all. at that time i only ate a small bite. tonight, nearly a decade later, a couple friends and i asked for it at a local sushi restaurant. they prepared it in the gunkan style, where the rice is wrapped in a wide strip of nori that rises like a wall around the rice ball, with space to fill with a topping. the way that uni is often served as sushi.

the natto was beaten in a bowl with raw egg, chopped green onions and shiso leaf. i struggled so hard to get it down my throat. my two friends didn't like it either, but managed to swallow it without any drama. i was two feet from my chef, trying not to vomit (i'm sorry if this is graphic) in my mouth, draining my water and sake in the process. i was mortified and embarrassed.

now look...i am not a picky eater. there are almost no foods that i HATE. i have always been able to eat things i didn't like in company, so as not to be rude or an embarassing guest. i'm not fond of most canned tuna, or at least the water-packed variety in the US. i dislike mayonnaise, but there are certain foods that i think benefit from it. i can eat almost anything else. but this defeats me.

however, i believe in trying to acquire tastes for foods, even if you don't like them. i will give natto maybe three more tries before writing it off completely. i mean, i usually like pungent, strong tasting fermented foods.

so my question to you natto fans out there, what exactly about it do you love? and other than mixed with raw egg, how do you like to eat it? i don't object to it's texture. the sliminess doesn't put me off. but can you tell me what i'm missing? and to those that might say "you don't like it, so don't worry about it", i want to stress that i believe in pushing my palate and learning to appreciate difficult foods. ideally, i'd like to get over my dislike of canned tuna and mayonnaise. in the unlikely event that i'm blessed with the opportunity to live and eat in japan for an extended period of time, i'd rather not gag in front of any more chefs, hosts, home cooks, or new friends.

thank you for any insight you might be able to give.

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  1. I tried natto many times before it started to grow on me. My husband is a big fan, so I would always try a little of his order. I think the easiest way to try it is in a "cut roll." The ratio of natto to rice is lower.

    1. I think Natto is overrated. It's bland, difficult to eat and usually packaged in too small servings. I'll take a big bowl of refritos over natto any day, but that's just me.

      1. Have you ever tried it's korean equivalent? It's pretty much the same, except koreans eat it in soup. The taste is phenomenal and is eaten with a little bit of pork that's in the soup. I had this for the first time last summer (I asked my mom to make it for me) and we both loved it. My mother made it with natto instead of the korean version....but she said the taste and smell was the same.

        She took 3 packets of natto and pounded them in a korean mortar. She stir fried the pounded natto with some kimchi and pork and added water and then we ate that with a bowl of hot rice. It was super simple but very very very tasty. It's like daengjang chigae to the 10th power

        guess I should say how I like to eat japanese natto. I like the slimy factor so I like to add raw egg yolk, chopped up okra, sliced green onion, and the packets of mustard and dashi. I like to eat it with rice and squares of korean seaweed. I also like to add chopped up kimchi to the natto and crumbled bacon on top for a twist

        5 Replies
        1. re: bitsubeats

          do you mean chungookjang?

          1. re: augustiner

            yep

          2. re: bitsubeats

            Yes, I love Cheonggukjang. I've only had it in jjigae, but I've never stir-fried it. I might try that next time.

            1. re: Humbucker

              it was a jiggae, it was just stirfried first, then water was added to make it into a jiggae

              1. re: Humbucker

                So the secret to Korean "natto" is to "get jjigae with it"?

            2. I lived in Japan for a year... and I could never ever acquire a taste for Natto.

              I've stopped trying.

              1. I'm not sure why I love it -- I just do. I can easily imagine why some don't.

                I didn't have to grow into it, either. I first had it when I trained with a Japanese chef in Boston, straight but mixed with a little mustard. It may be that I was simply ready for new tastes. I also liked the slimy "threading" you get stirring it up.

                I love it mixed with a *little* toasted sesame oil and scallions. It's good with a little chopped shiso and/ or mustard mixed in. To get use to it I agree with srr -- getting it in a maki is the least concentration of the flavor.

                The look I get when I ask for it is interesting. Either the chef has never heard of it -- which is telling in and of itself -- or they're delighted and surprised that I not only know what it is but actually like it. My understanding is that it's popular in Tokyo and north, but I don't really know. Perhaps someone here does...

                To contradict what another poster wrote, it is not at all bland. If it were, this thread probaly wouldn't even exist.

                1. Have you ever tried kuromame (black beans) natto? I have tried the regular stuff a few times, and I have difficulty eating it, but I can eat, and have come to enjoy the kuromame kind. Now I find the other kinds easier to eat. I'm still working on developing a taste for it, but for some reason I enjoy the kuromame more. I haven't done a head to head taste test, so I'm not sure why, but I think the beans are a little smaller. Also, I like the oroshi natto. It comes with a sauce with grated daikon (oroshi) in it, which IMO makes everything taste good :)