Fermented soybeans for breakfast
The Japanese are crazy about these sticky fermented soybeans! They are extremely beneficial to your health, yet hard to export outside of Japan.
Viscous, yellow-brown, with an extremely potent smell, these fermented soybeans have everything to deter any non-Japanese who didn't eat this growing up. Know however, that the taste is a lot weaker than the smell may suggest, unlike some cheeses...
Natto is made according to an ancient tradition of cooking yellow soybeans and fermenting them using the bacterium bacillus subtilis. Traditionally, it is stored in a rice straw bag.
It was in the city of Mito (Ibaraki Prefecture) that natto was created, centuries ago. There is even a Natto House, where the manufacturing process of natto is explained.
Natto for Breakfast?
As surprising as it may seem to many of us who are accustomed to eating something sweet for the first meal of the day, in Japan it's normal to have natto for breakfast.
The Japanese rarely eat natto as it comes, but the whip the beans using chopsticks to give them a foamy texture, and then season them with soy sauce and karashi (Japanese mustard). They then mix it with a bowl of hot white rice. The more daring can add yamaimo or tororoimo (varieties of potato), or daikon (Japanese radish), which when grated gives a sticky white paste and bitter taste. Adding an egg is also popular. Everything is washed down with a cup of green tea or coffee.
Nutritional studies showed that natto is good for the bones and heart. It's low in cholesterol and calories, while being rich in protein and calcium. This may well help explain Japanese longevity!
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