WHAT IS IT? Fermented soya beans. It is most commonly eaten on top of rice for breakfast. They come in a small single serving polystyrene container with mustard and dashi which should be mixed with the beans and stirred till they go slightly less ‘stringy’. The Japan Centre has further recipe suggestions including the rather punchy sounding "Natto kimchi".
WHY IS IT QUESTIONABLE? Natto is routinely described as the "marmite of Japan". It is considered questionable on both the grounds of taste and texture (looks as well to be honest!). The taste is earthy and yeasty with definite similarities to marmite. It manages to have a slimy texture with a stringy quality; like leftover baked beans coated in chewing gum. This is topped by a punchy smell that lingers on your breath. It is lauded for its health benefits and, much like marmite, is either something you revile or can't do without.
SAUNDERS SAYS: "This is weird and I mean really weird. To the western pallet this screams 'do not what ever you do eat me'. That said, I actually really like them (admittedly I like almost anything). Their texture is bizarre and flavour, well, impossible to describe. I highly recommend trying these even if just for the novelty factor.
SYMONDS SAYS: The taste floats my boat; I am not averse some earthy flavours and am prolific in my marmite consumption. However, it is the texture that gets me. Stringy, I can deal with but the slimy undertones push me over the edge. The natto taste oddly wet, like something unpleasant and viscous has happened in the container en route. I managed quite a few mouthfuls but, to be honest, if you put most things on top of rice and doused them in dashi and mustard, I would be game.
THE VERDICT? Try it, but we don't think this is going to become a staple on your menu. Also, don't eat natto with a beard.