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Dining In 1 minute 04 January 2019

Ingredient: Japanese Natto

This fermented soya bean is one of the most iconic traditional Japanese foods, packed with nutrition but polarising for its slimy texture and funky taste.

Japanese food wellness fermentation

In its earliest iteration, natto was made from steamed soya bean wrapped in rice straw to initiate the fermentation process. With modern industrialisation, the production model has changed massively, with the output turned up quite a few notches using the bacteria bacillus subtilis.
The most traditional recipe of making natto wraps steamed soybean in rice straw to ferment.
The most traditional recipe of making natto wraps steamed soybean in rice straw to ferment.
There are many different theories regarding the origin of natto. But in general, the Japanese people believe it’s been around their culinary culture for a millennium. High nutritional value lends longevity of this pungent food. Those include quality soy protein, calcium, soy isoflavone, unsaturated fatty acids, nattokinase and multiple types of vitamin (which come in even larger quantities after fermentation). It’s been long seen as the secret of the high life expectancy of Japanese. Supplements containing nattokinase found in the country’s cosmetic shops are one of the Japanese ladies’ go-to skincare products.

The Secret To Longevity

There could be up to a billion units of bacillus subtilis in every gram of natto. They are incredibly helpful in balancing gut flora to relieve constipation, gastroenteritis, diarrhea and other related problems. In addition, the slimy substance created from fermentation acts as a protective agent, covering the membrane on our intestines.

That’s far from the end of the fermented soya bean’s benefits. Nattokinase functions to dissolve the blood clots in our blood vessels, in doing so preventing heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke. Its rich calcium content also strengthens our bones and decreases the risk of osteoporosis. Soy isoflavone is a natural oestrogen that soothes the discomfort felt by women during menopause. Nevertheless, natto is a healthy food, not medicine. Those taking blood thinners or patients of hypothyroidism gout, serious stomach and kidney illnesses should eat it with caution.
Natto is often eaten with rice, spring onion and raw egg.
Natto is often eaten with rice, spring onion and raw egg.
Delicious And Nutritious

Natto is most frequently eaten with white rice. If you can’t get over the strong smell but want to eat it to stay healthy, feel free to throw in some spring onion, bonito flakes, tsukemono, raw egg, shiso leaf or dried plum to turn it into a delicious treat. Spring onion and raw egg are a common pairing with natto on rice. Japanese also like to make natto fried rice seasoned with doubanjiang (broad bean chilli paste) for some fiery aroma. On another note, cool the rice first before mixing natto into it, as heat would damage nattokinase and lower its nutritional value.

To get extra mileage out of this superfood’s nutritional properties, don’t be afraid to go beyond Japanese food and pair it with kimchi and olive oil. Kimchi possesses lactobacillus kimchii that is easily absorbed by natto, while the oleic acid in olive oil aids intestinal movements. In other words, this is the holy trinity for your digestive system.

This article was written by Joe Chan and translated by Vincent Leung. Click here to read the original story.

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