I am not certain how many Americans know about natto. My husband recognizes the smell, because I occasionally eat it, but he doesn’t want to know any further about it.
Natto is softly boiled soy beans fermented with a certain type of bacteria which live in straws. It is delicious and almost always eaten with rice.
Natto usually comes with a small amount of sauce in a package, and they are to be mixed in just before eating. Some people prefer to add chopped scallions or Japanese mustard. When natto is mixed, it starts to produce sticky stringy goo.
One of the famous Japanese food gurus Rosanjin stated that natto should be stirred a few hundred times before eating. I don’t know who has time to mix it so patiently, but many agree that natto tastes better when it’s mixed very well. The slimy texture of natto is somewhat similar to boiled okra, but natto is much slimier.
Many Japanese, including myself, familiarized themselves with this acquired taste since childhood as a part of standard Japanese breakfast, so that the slimy appearance, pungent smell and strong taste don’t bother them. But for others, it could be counted as one of the weirdest foods in the world.
I remember buying natto wrapped in a bundle of straws when I was a child. That was the way originally natto was made and sold. But now natto is made in factories using cultured bacteria, and sold in styrofoam packages.
So try natto today. It is both nutritious and delicious. You can find it at a Japanese grocery store.