Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Natto Making - 納豆

I grew up eating natto but it is said people from Tokyo and Northern Japan like natto whereas people from south of Tokyo do not.  Not sure about this, but I've always enjoyed natto over hot rice.  I also enjoy pan fried natto with a bit of ponzu sauce until dry and eating that with lettuce a la "Long Vacation".  

I make my own tofu, miso, and soy milk from Laura soy beans since around 2000.  I have been ordering beans from  Fairview Farms since then and really enjoy their products.  For some reason I never thought about making natto thinking I needed natto starter.  Wrong!  All you need is a package of  natto from the store.  I went online and searched natto making in English and Japanese and decided to give it a go.  Here is my own natto I made.  I mixed minced green onions, katsuo bushi (bonito flakes), a little homemade karashi or hot Japanese mustard  with some of my own ponzu sauce.

I started with 250 grams of dry soy beans soaked in water overnight.  Then I cooked the beans in pressure cooker for approximately 13 min.  My pressure cooker is a modified pressure cooker so if using pressure cooker, follow the direction on cooking beans. Drained the beans and spread it out onto casserole plate. I read it is best not to make it too deep.  

After this, I added one store bought package of natto and mixed completely.  

The plate was covered with aluminum foil.  Poked holes throughout the top of the foil, then another layer of aluminum foil with additional holes already poked was placed on top.  I heated my oven to warm and turned off.  Put natto in, turn the oven light on and add a large pan of hot water under the natto on the bottom shelf.  I did this because I read natto likes warm and damp environment.  I let it sit like this for 24 hours and hoped for the best.  

24 hours later, here is my natto.

It is awesome!  Very little aroma.  What I read is that is is best to keep in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating.  I tasted though and it was already good.  Japanese natto making site states, it is best in 7 days in the refrigerator.  It will keep for 6 weeks or you can freeze.  It's been over a week, and taste is even better.  I now understand that what many people associate with strong aroma or astringent smell is caused by over-fermentation and natto does not need to be like that.  Homemade natto is simple to make, very tasty, very little aroma, and healthy.  Keep a little left to make the next batch as a starter.  

I use natto in cooking as well like this salmon, natto, and lettuce chahan or fried rice.  Many people outside of say use cold or refrigerated rice for making fried rice.  That's not the Japanese way though.  In Japan, hot, warm, or room temperature is more often used and some chefs insist on it.  I also do not use cold or refrigerated rice.

This fried rice is very simple to make.  Have ready 1-2 beaten eggs, about 1/3 C to 1/2 C cooked salmon roughly chopped or sliced, about 1/4 C natto, about 1 1/2 C roughly torn or cut iceberg lettuce, about 1/4 C chopped green onion, about 1 T - 1 1/2 T soy sauce, about 3 C or so cooked rice, 2 T vegetable oil, and salt and pepper.  Optionally you can add chopped garlic and grated ginger as well.  Heat deep frying pan or wok with 2 T oil until hot and add eggs.  The eggs will puff out immediately.  Stir with chopsticks for about 10 seconds and add rice.  Keep stirring and add natto and salmon.  Stir fry, moving the pan for about 3 minutes and add lettuce.  Continue stir frying for about 30 seconds and add soy sauce around the edge of the pan and not directly on the rice and stir fry for additional 30 seconds.  Taste, and add salt and pepper to your taste and sprinkle on green onions.  Remove and serve.