Natto is one of those foods many people hear about when learning about Japan.  I remember being told how bad is smelled and that most westerners didn’t like the taste.  For a long time after arriving in Japan it was easy enough to forgo what I thought would be a bad experience.  Natto is often eaten as a breakfast food, and since I live alone, I can eat whatever I make for breakfast.

Still, the day finally came when it showed up in our school lunch, as it did the other week.  Back then, I ate with my students, so if you left something on your tray everyone would see it.  It was a great motivator not to waste food.  Anyway, I was finally unable to escape the dreaded natto.

The thing is, I liked it.  I followed along with my students, and quickly got the hang of how to eat it.  The other teachers were all impressed that I could eat it, since the stereotype that westerners can’t eat it is just as pervasive as the image of its bad taste.

So what is natto?  Its fermented soybeans.  The part that probably gets a lot of people is that the beans are connected by a stringy substance much like the inside of okra.  The taste is like a cross between oatmeal and well, soybeans (edamame). The smell for me isn’t exactly a floral bouquet, but not horrible either.

More on Natto

So, you’re ready to try some natto!  Here’s what you do.


Open the outer container.  Inside you’ll likely find a little packet of sauce, usually soy, mirin, or a combination.  Under that is a paper divider to keep your hands clean and the sauce packet from getting sticky.  Remove both.



Once you’ve gotten rid of the sticky paper with leftover strings of natto-ness, empty the sauce packet into the natto.  Using chopsticks (hashi) mix everything together.



Eat and enjoy!  Natto can be eaten straight out of the container (I find this the most convenient since anything you put it on will get the natto-slime on it).  Another common method is to eat it mixed into white rice.  Finally, if you saw that lunch post, you can throw it on some seaweed (nori) and eat it rolled.


Have you ever had natto?  What did you think of it?  Hit the comments above to give your perspective!