Nattō could be termed the ‘Japanese marmite’ because these fermented soybeans are an acquired taste. The smell and taste is quite strong and the texture is slimy! Don’t let this put you off though because nattō is highly nutritious and many people in Japan eat it for this reason alone. Nattō holds many vitamins such as K2, promoting good bone health, and the beans contain no cholesterol content.
The history of nattō itself is a little unclear as no one knows exactly how or when it originated, although there are many theories. All that is certain is that it has been consumed for a very long time and that it is especially popular in the Kanto, Tohoku and Hokkaido regions of Japan.
Nattō is most traditionally served as a breakfast dish on top of rice, accompanied by light soy sauce and a little Japanese mustard. Many Japanese style hotels called ‘ryokan’ serve foods such as nattō as one of their many breakfast dishes (similar to the picture above). Food served in ryokan changes depending on the season and what is readily available. Nattō can be made easily and is popular for this reason.
I made nattō gunkan (‘battleship’ sushi), using the nori to support the rice and adding the topping (a mixture of nattō, finely grated spring onions, soy sauce, and wasabi) to the rice. Nattō can also be added to dishes such as tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) to complement the texture of the egg and for health beneficial reasons. In recent years people have experimented with different recipes by adding nattō to toast, sushi, miso soup and even using it as a spaghetti topping!
The display and appearance of Japanese food should reflect shapes found within nature such as forests, flowers and leaves. I made a flower by rolling many thin slices of cucumber and cutting it in half to display in a small dish as a refreshing side to the nattō gunkan sushi and tamagoyaki.