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April 6, 2012


One question that I get asked regularly by Japanese people when I first meet them is whether I like Japanese food. After I say yes, invariably the follow-up question is “Even natto?”

Gooey and sticky with a distinct aroma, natto is often served as a side dish of a traditional Japanese breakfast. It is usually seasoned with soy sauce and mustard, and sometimes mixed with a raw egg. Natto is made from soybeans that have been fermented with the microorganism Bacillus natto. For most westerners, the texture is too slimy and the smell is too pungent, particularly so in the morning. Similar to other strong-tasting fermented foods such as blue cheese, it is definitely  an acquired taste and people either love it or hate it.  In Japan, natto is originally part of the food culture in colder climates, so many older people in Kyushu didn’t grow up eating it. Nowadays, natto is eaten all over Japan, but it is less popular in Western Japan.

Koji Natto

At Koijya Honten, they make koji natto, an enzyme-rich condiment that can be used as a side dish to accompany rice or as a topping on crackers. Even people who don’t like natto find it delicious. Easily made at home, it keeps about one month in the refrigerator. Thanks to koji-natto I am now among the ranks of those who like natto. Try it yourself.

Koji shops are concerned with contamination of the environment by rogue bacteria and  koji manufacturers are extremely careful to keep other microorganisms such as Bacillus natto out of their  production area. Kojiya has successfully created a delicious, healthy product that uses both koji and natto.

How to make koji natto:

  • 200 gm koji
  • 200 gm natto
  • 25 gm shiofuki konbu (salted kelp)
  • 150 cc soy sauce
  • 150 cc saké
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 50 gm sesame seeds
  1. Put the koji into a bowl and rub together to break up any clumps.
  2. Peel the carrot and grate it into 5 cm lengths.
  3. Pour the soy sauce and saké into a large saucepan and heat. When it reaches a boil, stir in the carrots and turn off the heat.
  4. Transfer the carrot mixture from #3 to a large bowl, add the koji and stir.
  5. When it cools down add the natto, konbu and sesame seeds and mix well.
  6. Cool it to room temperature, place in a covered container and refrigerate.
This is excellent as a rice topping. Mix with cucumber chunks for a simple, refreshing summer salad.

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