Japanese Natto / Nattou – Fermented Soybeans
After watching a video from one of my favorite youtubers ‘Ciaela‘ on nattō, I got so curious that a few months ago I decided to look for nattō. Now, mind you that nattō is not a known food at all in Malaysia, and before watching the video, I have never heard of nattō or seen it anywhere in KL but I decided to go look for it anyway. Strange that even studying at a Japanese school before, and studying Japanese for a couple of years before that, no one had ever mentioned nattō to me.
What is Nattō?
Nattō is a very popular Japanese food, typically eaten for breakfast and mostly for health reason. It is made from fermented soybeans with some bacterias in it which leaves it looking ooey gooey. There are a lot of claims, some unverified, that for health benefits nattō can help prevent sickness and improve your health. It can also help you lose weight!
So when I went to KL last December, I decided to go to 1Utama to search for it since that place is one of the popular place for Japanese related foods and items. I didn’t think I’d find it but when I went there, I was surprised to see how much 1Utama has changed – the food section and the market has been completely revamped/renovated and there are a lot more stuff now and yes, very Japanese oriented. True enough, when I was looking for this, I FOUND IT! Whoa. That was totally unexpected.
It was in the frozen section in the 1Utama market. There were a lot of nattō! I was very happy but my happiness did not last long when I picked one box up and read the ingredients.
Note to Muslims – If you’re interested in trying nattō, BE CAREFUL OF THE INGREDIENTS. That is because those packs that you see in the photo above contains ALCOHOL in all of them. How disappointing! Can’t the darn Japanese make their food WITHOUT alcohol?! With Japanese food, pork and alcohol are almost ALWAYS part of the ingredients. So for Muslims who can’t read Japanese, and the box has no translated ingredients, you’re screwed so better stay away from them.
Also, DO NOT believe the translated ingredients. When I checked at both AEON Kinta City Ipoh & AEON Station 18 Ipoh, they only listed the ingredient as ‘soybean’, but they did not list all the ingredients in it including ALCOHOL. So, please be careful if you don’t know how to read Japanese. Many foods will NOT list alcohol by the importer. Please blame the importer who is lazy to translate every single ingredient.
Please look for this kana in the ingredient: アルコール
Anyway. There’s actually hope. Rummaging in the freezer, scanning every boxes, I found this –
It’s the same pack as the one above but without the funky fat man face on it but instead there’s a little girl. The box read ‘furusato nattou’. When I picked it up, I had to smile. It’s a pack of nattō WITHOUT the alcohol! Awesome! It’s just a plain box of nattō and from the picture of the little girl, I assume that it’s made for kids. I get it now. So for the boxes above with a funky face of a fat man, that’s the ‘adult’ version of nattō which contains some added ingredients and alcohol but the kids one is just plain ol’ nattō.
I had to buy it. Unfortunately, it was THE ONLY box of nattō with an image of little girl on it. It was the last one. I forgot how much it cost but it was like than RM5 at that time. So later that night, I decided to eat it. I had some leftover chicken rice from my mom, and I heard it’s best to eat nattō with rice so yeah, I decided to try and put two and two together.
The pack contains 3 mini boxes of nattō. When you first open the box, phew. The stench of nattō will fill up your room. It smelled like feet, ammonia, pungent cheese and strong bad coffee all mixed together. It was a weird smell, and very strong. From reviews on youtube, almost all of them described the nattō to have a smell of feet but for mine, it had strong bad coffee smell. It comes with a pack of soy sauce and mustard.
The texture of the nattō is like snot when you have a flu. Yes, like your own yucky green mucus that you blow from your nose or hack out of your throat when you’re sick. It’s very sticky, gooey but it’s actually a cool thing. I had fun mixing it around then stretching it up. If you want to see what I mean, I’ll post a video from Ciaela at the end of this post.
Alright, the taste. It’s actually not that bad, surprisingly. I was sort of terrified to eat it, because many described the yucky taste and would throw up after a spoonful of nattō but I didn’t find it that disgusting. Maybe because mine is meant for kids, so it’s like a mild version? I bet it’s different with the adult version. I didn’t throw up or anything. It had like a strong bitter taste, slightly salty but with a hint of nutty-ness and of course beans. Unfortunately, with my Malaysian palate, my tolerance for the pungent-cheese smell and taste didn’t last long. I had to surrender after about 5 bites or so. Eating it with my chicken rice did not do any good. The bitter taste was getting stronger with each bite and chew and it overpowered the strong yummy taste of my spiced chicken (I ought to do a review on that). It did leave a bad aftertaste in my mouth.
Since I was staying at a hotel at that time, boy, did it fill up the whole room with a bad nattō smell for the rest of the night.
But yes, I survived nattō. However I feel the urge to give it another try again, if only I could find the mild kids version. Surprisingly, I found nattō in Ipoh a few weeks ago at the new Aeon Station 18 but it was the fat man adult version that contains alcohol. Oh well.
Before I end this entry, here’s the video from Ciaela that I watched that introduced me to natto.