Adventures in Dining: Natto
Posted by Degan on January 6th, 2010
Photo Credit: Aka Hige
Note: this post was imported from EthnicEats.ca
Recently I filled out a foodie quiz and it pegged me as an “adventurous” eater – a handle that made me question both the quiz and other people’s appetites in general. But the truth is, after being a vegetarian for years and years and then switching back, not only will I try anything once, I actively search out new things to try. That’s nothing new around food-lovers, but I think I may now have gotten to the point where I’ve already tried everything that tastes good.
Case in point: tonight I found myself at Zakkushi on Main Street, where the menu is fun (c’mon, eating meat on a stick is always fun) but not overly adventurous. I’ve been to Zakkushi before and have a couple of favorites there (garlic stubs wrapped with pork, please!) but I wasn’t expecting much out of the ordinary Japanese fare. Until I noticed that one of the specials tonight was natto gyoza.
“I’m ordering that,” I said.
“No you’re not,” said my dining companion, who came to that conclusion from once, long ago, having smelled Natto, a Japanese dish of soybeans fermented with bacteria so that they form a sticky, smelly clump. To say it’s an acquired taste may be something of an understatement. Another friend describes it as “flavoured ‘spider eggs’ with a hint of sulfur,” so you see what I’m getting at here.
At Zakkushi, though, they weren’t serving plain old natto. It was inside gyoza with ponzu sauce on the side. I debated a bit as to whether this would still count as having eaten natto and then considered it a small gift, to be accepted with grace, and dove in.
Well that’s not entirely true. I ordered it. As restaurant fate would have it, it arrived last, after we had finished all of our food and all but one swallow of beer. Was water going to get this taste out of my mouth? Did I have gum? “You’re hesitating,” my friend said, so I took a big bite. Thankfully, it didn’t immediately taste nearly as bad as I had been led to believe it would, and I said as much, taking another big bite.
The rankness started to seep through. I could feel the crushed beans getting between my teeth and a sort of rotten stench settling onto and into my tongue. How this food is usually eaten for breakfast is beyond me. Talk about morning breath! But apparently the smell is caused by certain enzymes that help cure blood clots, so it can’t be all that bad, right? At least now I never have to eat it again.