This spring, Mr. Minami Satoh of Japan Traditional Foods Inc. officially launched his line of organic natto, a food made from fermented soybeans, under the brand name Megumi Natto.
While some Japanese don’t care for natto, a pungent, slimy, stringy food commonly used in their country’s native cuisine, Satoh hopes Americans will embrace it as they have sake, sushi, and edamame.
According to a story by Yukari Iwatani Kane for the Wall Street Journal online, Mr. Satoh makes about 700 three-ounce packages of fresh natto a day in a tiny factory, which he sells for around $3 each.
With its musky aroma similar to ripe cheese, natto may be a tough sell in the USA. Satoh hopes the recent popularity of Pan-Asian cuisine, along with recipes he’s developed such as tomato-natto bruschetta, will encourage Americans to give it a try. Satoh has also mixed natto with olive oil and mayonnaise and tried it on bread, bagels and tortillas, according to Kane’s article. Satoh also recommends mixing it with Caesar salad dressing or serving it with diced apples or avocado. Fresh natto will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.
With approximately 14,000 Japanese restaurants currently operating in the U.S., the foodservice market would seem to offer the best opportunity for Americans to sample this latest culinary offering from the Pacific Rim.
One thing natto has going for it is its nutritional benefits. Natto is loaded with vitamins such as the antioxidant Vitamin E, and Vitamin B2, which improves metabolism. In addition, natto contains an enzyme, nattokinese, which helps to dissolve blood clots and can shred brain plaque. Some chemists believe nattokinese could become a game-changing medication that could someday be used to fight Alzheimer’s disease.
A popular diet food in Japan, natto contains the same amount of protein as a similar serving of beef, with far fewer calories and cholesterol. A three-ounce portion has 15 grams of protein and 178 calories.
Natto has occasionally been a featured ingredient on the cable TV series, Iron Chef.
Michelin-starred Japanese-inspired restaurant Ame, in San Francisco, has offered natto for the past year as a $2 option to add to a dish with cuttlefish, sea urchin, and salmon roe, to somewhat mixed reviews.