I’ve had natto at sushi restaurants before, but never dared using this ingredient at home for a very simple reason: natto stinks, and not exactly in a good way, though it tastes perfectly good when served in my maki rolls. So I have to confess that I’ve been natto-curious. Last week while shopping at Nijiya in the Japan Center I overcame my hesitation and trifling anxiety, and got some to prepare at home. Like most Brazilians, I love rice and beans, which was my inspiration here: Tokyo meets São Paulo.
Natto is a healthy processed soybean product, quite unlike tofu or soy sauce. Made of steamed soybeans that get mixed with a starter, natto-kin (bacillus subtilis natto), and left to ferment at a controlled temperature for a few days, the beans evolve into a slimy, sticky consistency with a pungent and nutty flavor. You can use it in soups, toast, noodles or rice. It adds an exciting layer of complex flavors to the dish. Behold the power of fermented foods! I am going to try making natto at home from scratch sometime. Follow this link to make natto.
Store-bought is a breeze though, and undoubtedly less time-consuming. To make natto beans and rice, really all you must do is cook the rice. The rest of the ingredients merely need assemblage.
Japanese natto beans and rice
1 cup Japanese sushi rice
1¾ cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tbsp rice vinegar
1 portion of natto
1 tbsp soy sauce
¼ tsp chili garlic paste
1 whole scallion, chopped fine
Strands of toasted nori (dried seaweed/sea vegetable)
Place rice, water, olive oil, salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to prevent sticking. Reduce temperature to low, cover and cook until water is absorbed. Remove from heat, keep lid on for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully stir vinegar in.
Meanwhile transfer natto to a bowl and stir it with a wooden spoon for 5-10 minutes. It will form a white stringy, marshmallow like thread around the beans. Worry not, that’s what it is supposed to look like. Stir in soy sauce, and scallions. Plate individual portions of rice, spoon with some natto over it and top with nori.
I served this dish with green acorn squash and sautéed shitake mushroom. It was a nice and unusual way of eating rice and beans. There will be more!
You can see other ways of eating natto in this informative video: