Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Friday 23 December 2016

Table of fermentation: Natto from the world

Fermentation and food culture

Shoyu, miso, sake, milin are Japanese key ingredients. These are all made by the work of Aspergillus oryzae (koji mold). Lactic acid bacteria is used for making tsukemono pickles, hay bacillus (Bacillus subtilis) is used for making tempe or nattou, and Penicillium is for cheese.

Wine and cheese well suit for bread (made by wheat/rye), and natto, tsumemono and sake go well with rice. Various types of crops and bacterias which are suitable for its climate and soil have been selected and domesticated since ancient time.

The combination of main crop and native germs have influenced traditional food cultures.

The table of fermentation "nattou" laboratory

In this laboratory, members interested in fermentation share various ingredients and also our knowledge.
The theme of this time is "Natto"

Soy Beans are collected from different region, Yamagata and Tsukui (Kanagawa), a type of bean from Myammer, peanuts, ginkgo nut, sorghum millet.

Plants which is for collecting hay bacillus we used are; 3 varieties of fern, rice straw, wheat, bamboo grass, banana leave, Manchurian wild rice (Zizania latifolia).

Although typically natto we eat in Japan is made by soy bean with straw, nattou bacillus is existing everywhere in plants and even in atmosphere, and various plants are used in south and east Asia.

In Japan, natto has been made at home by ordinary people, and it is said that in edo (samurai) period, specialized producers and marchants started to sell natto. However, it is only after modernization era in 20c, when natto bacillus bacteria is artificially cultivated.

Variation of nattou

<Shape of beans>
1. Grain shaped
2. Dried
3. Grinded

①Natto bacteria  
②Aspergillus   Touchi in China, Daitokuji natto in japan
③Tempe   Indonesia

straw, fern, cheak, banana leaf, fig leaf

Laos, Thai, Myanmer, India, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Korea, Japan

In Korea, natto is called as "jiang (sause) from Qing dynasty", and it is dried. It is also reported that it was once eaten during war time, since it is made quickly and can be preserved for long time.
This type of dry natto without stickiness can be found also in a part of Japan.

Many natto in Asia is not used as grain, but mostly grinded into paste with chili, and dried.

Influence of plants for natto flavor and stickiness

When natto bacteria eats protein, it produces glutamic acid and fractose, which combined to be muchin, sticky compounds. Bacillus bacteria can survive under high temperature unto 100 celsius, however, most active temperature is approximately 40 degree.

Comparing the tastes, the flavors, stickiness, and texture are different dependent on the variety of beans and plants we used.

Protein ritch soybeans showed more stickiness, and starch-ritch pea or cowpea showed less threads, however, peanuts and gingko nuts also turned to be natto (sorghum millet did not change). In addition, softness of original boiled beans also affected the results. Hard boiled beans and soft boiled beans are different in terms of stickiness.

Personally, I like the flaber of rice straw. For some Asian ethnic group, it is reported that ferns are considered their most favorite flavor, and when it is not available, they only use straw.

1. Banana leaf (Musa spp.)

Flavor★★★ Stickiness★
We wrapped beans by banana leaf and newspaper, though, the beans got dried without enough moisture. No stickiness, but it tastes good.

2. Fern1

Flavor★★ Stickiness★★★
Compared to cowpea, soy beans showed more stickiness.

3. Fern2 (Cyrtomium  C. fortunei?)

Flavor★ Stickiness★★★
The flavor is very unique. I cannot express well, but maybe it is tasty if we get used to...

4. Fern3 (Gleichenia japonica)

Flavor★★ Stickiness★
Due to lack of protein contents, it did not appear stickiness, but filled with flavor of ferns.

5. Bamboo

Flavor★ Stickiness★★★
The most sticky natto is the one with bamboo leaf. Cowpeas tend to be less sticky but with the combination of bamboo leaf, it got more sticky.


6. Rice straw

Flavor★★★ Stickiness★★
This may be due to my Japanese DNA, I feel straw flavor is the best!

7. Mokomo wild rice (Zizania latifolia)

Flavor★★ Stickiness★

It is too dried and not so much sticky, also not so strong flavor.

Variouos fermented foods and preservation foods were on the table.
2 types of amazake (sweet sake), doburoku (home-brewed sake), beer, wine, seedle, tofuyo, heshiko, yuzukosyo, kanzuri, umeboshi, pickle...

We also tasted varieties of natto from Myammer, China, and Japan (inherited in mountanouos temple in Shikoku)

Which combination do you like?
Let's cook with us! Please let us know if you would like to experience fermentation in Japan.