Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Japanese Food Week with Natto and Shoyu

As if using fresh yuba (the soybean skin) in my cooking wasn't exciting enough for me, I got an invitation from one of my former students who is Japanese to try natto, a traditionally fermented soybean product. I have mentioned before, or at least I think that I have, that eating fermented foods is a good thing.

And I may have even possibly posted about trying natto once before. I said that it was right up there with one of the 10 most disgusting foods that I have ever had. Well, I need to rescind my comment on natto. I tried frozen natto and it was beyond gross and smelly.

The natto that I tried today, produced here in the United States, just 10 minutes from where I live, in Sonoma County, is a very different food product. It doesn't have a ton of flavor and certainly not one that I would consider disgusting. I must point out that the texture is certainly not something most Americans are used to, as it is a bit gummy. I was told that the stickiness contains that nattokinase which is the beneficial part of the natto. The soybeans used in this natto are non-GMO beans from North Dakota that are not like any soybean that I have ever seen or used, they are much smaller.

Traditionally natto is eaten daily on top of rice with shoyu and mustard or wasabi, often for breakfast. I tried my natto with some shoyu and ate it on a lettuce leaf. It was delicious and a most interesting appetizer -- very fresh.

This brings me to shoyu -- I happened to be at when there were some Japanese visitors who own a shoyu plant in Japan. I left with a small bottle of 2 year old shoyu, made without water. This is not what we usually see here in the US, unless you spend more money on your soy sauce, which I occasionally do. I actually use tamari, not soy sauce, since I know that it's usually a higher quality than the brown stuff in bottles.

I met with Minami and Shun and it was a great pleasure. I learned more about Japanese foods in one short visit with them than I had anticipated. I cannot wait to have my students try natto to see what they think. And I may have to take a trip to San Francisco to get some special Japanese products. Minami told me that he knows one of the best tofu makers in Japan. Perhaps I should just resurrect my idea of the Tofu Tour to Japan. Are you interested? Let me know by posting a comment here.


Fred S. said...

Jill, I wish I could have been there with you. I have a longstanding interest in soy foods and I've visited a few tofu companies in the U.S. and in every case the freshly made tofu tastes so much better than the stuff sold in stores in the plastic water-filled tubs.

How does the Japanese shoyu maker produce it without water?

The Veggie Queen said...

I believe that just like with cabbage, when you salt it and there is liquid, that is what happens in the fermentation process. I could, though, be wrong.

I am getting hungry thinking about fresh tofu. Of course, if you make it yourself, it's fresh but it's quite a process.

Laura Goldenberg said...

I live in Sonoma County. where did you get the natto that you liked?
Thank you!