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Japanese Natto

Probably Japanese Nattô is one of the least popular Japanese foods among foreigners. 
Many foreigners cannot eat, or even touch it because of its smell and gooey texture.
Let me tell you some stories about Japanese Natto.

1. Japanese Standard Breakfast

natto-rice-misosoup

In the 17th century, Nattô became an indispensable food among commoners.

Nattô vendors walked around the whole town early every day in the morning.

Two main fermented soy foods,Nattô and Miso soup,became standard breakfast for the Japanese.

2. variety of Japanese Natto

1)Téra Nattô

Yet, I’m happy to announce that there exists another kind of Nattô which is not sticky and doesn’t smell so bad.
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” where general affairs of the temple are managed.
This is the name origin of Nattô.

buddhist-temple-tera
tera-natto-not-sticky

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 acidwhich consists of “umami” 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.

natto-sticky

2) Sticky Nattô

On the other hand, ordinary Nattô can be made extremely easily.

1) place cooked soybeans in rice straw

That’s all. Quite simple.
The bacteria in straws called bacillus subtilis Nattôchanges soybeans into Nattô
It is said that Nattô was invented in Japan in the 14th century, but many scholars believe that they had found and used much earlier this witchcraft caused by rice straws.
The stickiness of Nattô is derived from glutamic acid which consists of the “umami” flavor.

But 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 high end supermarket including department stores, Nattô covered with straws can often be found, yet these straws are sterilized and serve only as a receptacle.

natto-in-strawbag-warairi