Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One person’s delicacy is another person’s projectile vomit-inducer

I'm talking about natto. I wish I could tell you that I've tasted natto, but my experience with this food merely extends to looking at it, smelling it and picking it up with a pair of chopsticks. The natto never actually made it into my mouth, mostly due to the foul smell, but also because it looks like soy beans immersed in snot.
So WTF is natto, you ask? Natto is a fermented soybean product, enjoyed in Japan. In short, whole soybeans are cooked and then fermented with Bacillus subtilis (natto) until the beans are covered in that viscous, goo. When you lift the soybeans up with your eating utensil of choice, long, stretchy, mucoid tendrils maintain contact with the dish.* The viscous, sticky material is mainly composed of gamma-polyglutamic acid, a polymer composed of D- and L-glutamic acid. In less-scientific terms, the snotty mess is B. subtilis capsule. Yum.
I know I sound like a total puss for not actually tasting this, ahem, food. It's not like I was going to die from consuming the substance. Maybe just some intense gagging or projectile vomiting.
I've spent a lifetime overcoming food aversions. As a child I assumed that if it looked gross and it smelled gross, then it was gross. This hypothesis was tested in triplicate and as far as I was concerned, a scientific theory. The few times I did re-test the Theory of Looks Gross, Is Gross, it was boldly reinforced. I'm thinking specifically of the time I tried Vegemite during a trip to New Zealand. NEVER AGAIN!
It's only within the last four or five years that I've really ventured out in my food choices. I will typically try something at least once, and usually like it. I don't know what changed, but I am glad that it did, otherwise I would not know the goodness of sushi.

So....has anyone actually tried natto?

*I've been told that longer threads indicate better quality natto.



7 comments:

Toaster Sunshine said...

I recently tried cold, pickled chickens' feet at dim sum. I couldn't get past the cold vinegar and skin texture. I mean, put the chickens' feet in collard greens or barbecue, and fine, I'll eat them. But cold? Couldn't get past that.

Bible tripe, on the other hand, turned out to be pretty good, if a little bit chewy.

Epicanis ( http://www.bigroom.org/wordpress ) said...

I have actually eaten natto, and I'm happy to report that the experience was nowhere near as nasty as the appearance and smell would suggest.

I can't say that I would be eager to order it again, but it wasn't too bad. If I were stranded on a deserted island with a crate of natto, I would be in no danger of starving to death.

Indeed, if I was stranded with a crate of natto and a crate of bell peppers, the natto would go first, but then bell peppers are downright vile.

transientreporter said...

Whaa..? I LOVE vegemite! Marmite, Bovril...

Come on, it's the dog's bollocks!

PhizzleDizzle said...

i have never even heard of natto and I'm glad I haven't. you should check this out:

http://www.thesneeze.com/steve-dont-eat-it/

chall said...

ewwww.. no not eating that ;)

sorry, I'm a bit of a squeemish with some type of food. Other fermented soy stuff works out though, but that slimy thing... not so much (apart from "långfil" which some people think is vile).

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

So basically it's slimy rotting beans? YUM! I was wondering what to have for lunch, thanks MXX!

Actually, I seem to have lost my appetite.

microbiologist xx said...

TS - Yeah, I would need a little sauce too. The few people I do know that have tried the chicken feel say that they are a lot of work for very little meat. :) I haven't tried tripe yet, but I am interested in trying it.

Epi - I don't know why, but I had a feeling YOU would have tried natto. Maybe if I ever get the chance again, I will at least take a little nibble.

TR - Apparently entire countries love vegemite! For me it was one of those food experiences where I had to harness all my self control and NOT wipe my tongue off with a napkin and then proceed to gulp down a gallon of water. After the vegemite, I couldn't bring myself to try the Marmite, but I have heard they taste quite different.

PD - Thanks for the link. I love it. It's entertaining and gross all at the same time.

chall - yeah, it's really hard for me to get beyond the appearance. Now, just throw in the smell of an overnight bacterial culture.

cath - Yes, if you want to break it down into its basic components, yes, that is exactly what it is! :) I hope you found your appetite.