Natto, Nagaimo, and Okura Over Rice


natto_nagaimo_okura-1When you mix natto, nagaimo, and okura together, it’s going to be very sticky, gooey, and nutritious. It’s so delicious and satisfying, that you can’t believe it doesn’t include any animal protein.

This is particularly great when summer heat decreases your appetite. I usually season with soy sauce only, but a tiny amount of rice vinegar can be added.

It’s so easy that you don’t really need a recipe, but here are the ingredients for two.


  • 3 okras chopped, after boiling 30 seconds
  • 1 packaged natto
  • 3 tbsp grated nagaimo
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • Chopped scallion (optional)

Mix them all together and pour over rice. It’s delicious over spaghetti as well.

Food Preparation


People tend to think it takes time to cook Japanese food. The answer is yes and no. Just like any other food in the world, you could spend all day to prepare everything from scratch, but we don’t have such luxury every day.

The trick is ingredients preparation. There are many things you can do once a week or so to help you cook lunch or dinner easily.

Particularly if you are like me, who loves CSA distributions from summer to fall, you will get a large amount of vegetables once a week. Wash, dry and pack the vegetables individually right after geeting them saves your time and money.

Also when you don’t have time, go ahead and use granulated dashi, such as hondashi. We all know that freshly made dashi from scratch tastes better, but please don’t be discouraged to prepare Japanese food at home, just because you can’t make dashi.

By the same token, get whatever the ingredients you can afford. Organic is great, but conventionally grown food are nutritional as well. The important thing is to cook at home, because in that way you can eat and live healthier.

Here are some of the preparation examples you can do to save your time.

  1. Carrots – Several carrots can be washed, peeled and shredded with a mandoline at a time. Keep the shredded carrots in a sealed ziploc bag to last over a week. You can use this in salad, stir fry with other vegetables or noodles.
  2. Leafy vegetables – Lettuce, baby spinach, and other leafy vegetables can be washed, dried beforehand. It’s important to dry well after washing before storing in the fridge to keep the leaves crisp and last longer. Larger spinach can be boiled in salted water, chilled in icy water right after that, squeeze the excess water off, and freeze in a tightly sealed bag or container. Thawed boiled spinach is delicious to eat with katsuobushi and soy sauce.
  3. Scallions – It’s one of the must ingredients in Japanese food. You want this in miso soup, noodle soup, natto, mugitoro rice, okonomiyaki and many other food. Scallions are highly perishable if you keep them in the fridge, but you can chop them up, and freeze in a tightly sealed ziploc bag. The chopped scallions will thaw quickly.
  4. Ginger root – Sometimes you don’t have a choice to buy only a huge piece of ginger, even if you need just a tiny bit. The leftover should be plastic wrapped tightly and keep in a fridge. But use it as soon as possible. It deteriorates pretty quickly.
  5. Nagaimo – Unpeeled nagaimo can be tightly plastic wrapped and stored in a fridge up to 10 days or so. If you need to store longer, you need to peel, grate, and freeze. Follow the instruction from my previous posting about nagaimo.
  6. Tomato – Tomatoes shouldn’t be kept in a refrigerator in any circumstances, because the cold temperature destroys the flavor. If you are busy, buy cherry or grape tomatoes to avoid cutting them up.
  7. Rice – It takes time to cook rice for every meal, even if you use a rice cooker. When I cook rice I cook larger amount, and freeze the rest. Divide the hot cooked rice for one portion each (it’s important to do this while the rice is still hot to preserve the flavor), tightly plastic wrap individually, and freeze. When you are ready to eat, microwave about 1 minute per individually wrapped rice to slightly thaw. Remove the plastic wrap, transfer the rice in a rice bowl, then microwave 1 more minutes. You wouldn’t even notice it’s actually leftover.
  8. Fish, beef, pork, and chicken – Animal protein are highly perishable without being cooked, you can preserve longer when you marinade them in soy sauce or miso. But if you leave the protein too long in the marinade the food will be too salty.

Natto Jiru (Natto Miso Soup) Recipe


Natto jiru stands apart from the other miso soup. It is a nutritious meal by itself. The basic ingredients are root vegetables, and four different soy bean products, natto, miso, tofu, and aburaage. The mixture of miso and ground natto creates thick soup, and very satisfying.

Natto jiru is a Japanese word to signify winter in haiku. It is mainly eaten during cold winter month, because it uses root vegetables, which are available even in winter, and the thick soup mixture of natto and miso warm up the body.

Natto itself is an acquired taste, but natto jiru may be even more so. But if you like natto, you will love this soup. I omitted tofu this time, because didn’t have have it handy.

Ingredients (for 2)

  • 1 pack natto
  • 2 tbsp miso
  • 2 cups dashi
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced in 1/4″
  • 2 oz daikon peeled and quartered, and sliced in 1/4″
  • 1 oz konnyaku
  • 1/2 aburaage, cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1/4 package kinugoshi (soft) tofu


Grind natto using suribachi until all beans are smashed and smooth.
Boil dashi in a small bowl, and boil daikon and carrots about 3 minutes or until done. Cut aburaage and konnyaku into 1/4" strips and add to the pot. If you use already cut konnyaku, you don't need to cut. Tofu will be cut into 1/2" cubes and added this time.
Add small amount of soup into suribachi that has ground natto in it, and dissolve natto by grinding even more. The ground natto and soup will be add to the pot with miso paste. Heat the soup just before boil, and serve with chopped scallion on the top.



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.

natto_straw-2I 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.

Typical Japanese Style Breakfast


This is my weekend brunch. My husband and son doesn’t eat this type of food for breakfast, but from time to time I crave it. This very basic meal consists of brown rice, miso soup, vegetable pickles, and natto (fermented soy beans).

I usually don’t eat Japanese style breakfast on weekdays, as it takes time to prepare. Then, I started to wonder, “Do many Japanese still eat Japanese style breakfast?”

According to a Japanese breakfast survey done on 2009, by one of the Internet marketing firm, people who eat Japanese style breakfast and Western style breakfast are almost evenly split, 43.2% and 40.0% respectively. Only tiny portion of respondents eat cereal or something else, and there are some who don’t eat breakfast.

Preparation of Japanese style breakfast takes time, as it usually involves cooking of rice and miso soup. To reduce the amount of early morning chores, people program rice cookers the night before, so that steamy hot rice is ready when they wake up.

In addition to rice and miso soup, other food such as grilled fish, natto (the brownish beans in the photo above), pickles, noriraw eggs, or cooked eggs seasoned with sugar and dashi may be on the table. Japanese style breakfast is smaller version of regular meal. They are delicious and nutritionally balanced. If someone can prepare for me, I would love to eat Japanese style breakfast every day.

Japanese Mustard

When a Japanese recipe calls for mustard, regular prepared mustard shouldn’t be used. Unlike American mustard, which is a combination of mustard seeds, vinegar, and other spices, Japanese mustard is only made of powdered mustard and water.

You can either buy powder type or ready to use tube type. When you prepare mustard on your own from powder, mix a small amount of water with mustard to form paste in a shot glass. Cover it for a while to develop potency. Once it’s made, it lasts only for a day or so. It won’t get bad, but it gets dry and lose potency. So that prepare a small amount of mustard every time you need.

Japanese mustard is served on the side, to accompany natto (fermented soy beans), oden, tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork), etc. Chinese and other asian cuisine use the same powdered mustard.

Japanese grocery stores carry both powder and tube type of mustard. Korean and Chinese grocery stores may carry tubes. For those who wish to order online, here are the links;