I know many foreigners detest Natto.
However, they have many varieties, not only the one which is sticky and smells bad.
Therefore let me present you its variety.
1: Tera Natto
As a not-sticky variation, I’d like to start my story from “Téra Natto” .
Tera means Buddhist temple.
Initially, a building of Buddhist temple called “Nassho” (納所）was the designated place for its making.
Because 納所 commands all the general affairs of the temple.
As the same Kanji 納 shows, this is its name origin (納豆).
By the way, 所 means place and it has two pronunciation: 1) tokoro and 2) sho.
Téra Natto came to Japan from China in the 7th century.
Recipe (Tera Natto)
The recipe is as mentioned below:
- place cooked soybeans on the rice mat in which Koji-bacteria can increase.
=> thus we produce soy- Koji
- add salt in this soy-Koji and leave it for 3-4 months.
Activity of lactic bacteria is vigorous in this process.
- dry these fermented soybeans
Soy-Koji contains a lot of amino acids which compounds “umami” flavor.
In addition, you can not forget the important role that lactic bacteria plays in fermentation. Lactic fermentation adds acidity and makes the flavor characteristic.
By the way, this variety becomes black because of the melanic pigment derived from the fermentation of amino acid called tyrosine.
This is the same reason why soy sauce is black.
2: Sticky type
Second is sticky type.
The recipe for this ordinary type is quite simple.
- place cooked soybeans in rice straw
That’s all. Quite simple.
The bacteria in straws called bacillus subtilis changes soybeans into Natto.
It is said that it 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.
Its stickiness is derived from glutamic acid which consists of the “umami” flavor.
But today, it is uncommon to make it by using rice straw.
Natt0 bacteria is added in cooked soybeans still hot and after fermentation, they are refrigerated.
In the high end supermarkets including department stores, Natto covered with straws can often be found, yet these straws are sterilized and serve only as a receptacle.
Second variety is sweet.
Just like Ama–saké for Saké, it also has its colleague in the sweet world.
It’s Ama–natto (甘納豆）.
As I mentioned in the Ama–saké page, Ama（甘) means sweet.
Different from other types, it serves as sweets covered with sugar.
That is to say, Ama–natto could be called confiserie in French.
I know there are various sorts of confiserie in the world, such as marron glacé and fruit confits.
However, I proudly confess that it is the only confiserie using beans.
The love for beans (mamé) is so huge in Japan that we are eager to use them in all the ways imaginable.