I like food, and I like foreign food especially. But I must confess (shhh!) that Japanese food is not one of my favorite cuisines.
Don’t get me wrong: I eat it and enjoy it. But it’s way down on my list, after Middle Eastern and Greek and Italian and French and Chinese, maybe just a bit above German and Russian (which I really don’t like—sorry, Sergey and Tatyana).
So, because of my lukewarm attitude towards Japanese food, perhaps I’m not being objective when I predict that this effort will not catch on here. At the risk of sounding juvenile, I will add that fermented soy products such as natto are yucky. And I think most of America will agree.
Even a great many Japanese are not keen:
Many Japanese shy away from natto, the slimy fermented soybean found in Japanese cuisine. Yet Minami Satoh is on a mission to get Americans to embrace the smelly food…
Mr. Satoh’s long odds are evident at Ame. The Michelin-starred Japanese-inspired restaurant in San Francisco has offered Mr. Satoh’s natto for the past year as a $2 option to add to a dish with cuttlefish, sea urchin and salmon roe.
“I’ve asked our wait staff to encourage customers to try it out because even if they don’t like it, it’s only $2 extra,” says chef Hiro Sone. But even after the encouragement, only about 60% of the customers request it and most of them are people who were previously familiar with natto, he says.
And remember, these naysayers are folks who are already ordering a dish with cuttlefish, sea urchin, and salmon roe. Not the culinarily provincial, I’d wager.
I’ve never eaten natto, although I’m quite familiar with its cousin tempeh, which I absolutely detest. The difference between the two foods is subtle, but it sounds as though natto is even worse than tempeh—and that’s saying quite a bit:
Natto is soybeans fermented by bacteria, tempeh is fermented by fungus.
I’ve never eaten natto. If the descriptions I’ve read are accurate, it is disgusting; one of the more difficult to acquire tastes you’ll ever find.
And that quote is from an article in a newsletter put out by a naturopathic clinic trying to push natto as healthful, which no doubt it is. Must be really nasty stuff.