A curious yet classic Japanese breakfast item, stretchy fermented soybeans called natto are incredibly healthy, an ancient superfood that’s been a part of Japan’s cuisine for thousands of years.

One of Japan’s many prominent soy-based products, natto is made from fermented soybeans, a culinary discover from thousands of years ago which has since become a part of traditional Japanese breakfasts. Natto tends to be an acquired taste, for its texture is infamously sticky, stringy, and slimy. Sound yummy? Fresh from the packet, the fermenting bacteria in natto makes the smell powerful (some people describe the flavor reminiscent of fermented cheese), certainly a pungent food that’s strange but inexpensive, loved by some and detested by others. Regions to the east and north of 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.

Certainly one of those bizarre foods “only in Japan,” surprisingly natto is bursting with health benefits, 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, it’s regularly consumed as a breakfast food in Japan, often eaten over rice with with 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, take on the challenge and taste this fermented superfood on your next adventure to Japan.

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