One of Japan’s many prominent soy-based products, natto is made from fermented soybeans, a culinary discovery from thousands of years ago which has since become a part of traditional Japanese breakfasts. Natto tends to be an acquired taste, as its texture is infamously sticky, stringy, and slimy. Sound yummy? Fresh from the packet, the yeast and bacteria naturally present in natto yields a powerful scent (some people describe the flavor reminiscent of fermented cheese). It’s certainly a pungent food that’s strange, but inexpensive, loved by some and detested by others. Regions in eastern and northern Japan tend to be fans of natto (although it does come down to individual preference), with Ibaraki Prefecture, just to the north of Tokyo, famous for its local natto and natto products.
One of those bizarre foods that’s available “only in Japan,” natto bursts with health benefits and is packed with protein, probiotics, and dietary fiber. Fermented foods make up a significant part of the Japanese diet, so the healthy enzymes in natto work well together with miso and pickles. Mass-produced since the Edo period, natto is regularly consumed as a breakfast food in Japan, often eaten over rice with a raw egg. Although admittedly not for everyone, the texture and taste can be balanced using soy sauce and some spicy Korean kimchi, or with condiments such as wasabi, mustard, pickled ginger, or green onions. Check out our food experiences if you want to take on the challenge and taste this fermented superfood on your next adventure to Japan.