(Kano Eisyuku”Plum,Cherry Tree and Little Birds”(left) owned by itabashi art museum)
Probably “Nattô” is one of the least popular Japanese foods among foreigners. Many foreigners cannot eat it because of its smell and gooey texture in the mouth. Yet there exists in Japan another kind of Nattô which is not sticky. It is called “Téra Nattô” which literally means “temple Nattô “.
“Téra Nattô” was introduced from China in the 7th century. Initially, this Nattô was produced in one of the Buddhist temple buildings called “Nassho”. This is the name origin of Nattô.
“Téra Nattô” is made as mentioned below:
1) place cooked soybeans on the rice mat in which Koji-bacteria can increase.
=> Produce soy- Koji
2) add salt in this soy-Koji and leave it for 3-4 months. Activity of lactic bacteria is vigorous in this process.
3) dry these fermented soybeans
Soy-Koji contains much amino acid which consists of “ummi” flavor. Lactic fermentation adds acidity to make the flavor characteristic. This Nattô becomes black because of the melanic pigment derived from the fermentation of amino acid called tyrosine by lactic bacteria. This is the same reason why soy sauce is black.
On the other hand, ordinary Nattô can be made extremely easily.
1) place cooked soybeans in rice straw
That’s all. The bacteria in straws called bacillus subtilis Nattô changes soybeans into Nattô. It is said that Nattô was invented in Japan in the 14th century, but many scholars believe that the Japanese had found and used earlier this witchcraft caused by rice straws. The stickiness of Nattô is derived from glutamic acid which consists of the “umami” flavor.
In the 17th century, Nattô vendors walked around the whole town early in the morning and Nattô became an indispensable food among commoners. Two main fermented soy foods, Nattô and Miso soup, became standard breakfast for the Japanese.
Today, it is uncommon to make Nattô by using rice straw. Nattô bacteria is added in cooked soybeans still hot and after fermentation, they are refrigerated. In department stores, Nattô covered with straws can often be found, yet these straws are sterilized and serve only as a receptacle.
Umami can be defined as “the 5th flavor together with sweetness, acidity, saltiness, bitterness”. This name was given at the beginning of the 20th century by Dr. Ikeda Kikunae. This doctor discovered monosodium glutamate (MSG) and opened up a possibility to develop “umami” seasonings.