When it comes to natto, there are two camps: the lovers and the haters. They say you’re not truly Japanese unless you enjoy eating this stuff, but most Kansai people don’t like it. I grew up with natto because my family strongly believes in its health benefits. My grandmother says it makes your blood sara sara—meaning it thins your blood and reduces clotting.
People who hate natto will tell you it’s the smell or the neba neba (sticky, slimy) texture. The texture is not unusual in Japanese food. Yama imo (Japanese mountain yam), sato imo (taro yam), and okra all have that neba neba-ness. But I understand some find the thought/smell/sight of it offensive, so for the tentative eater, I recommend ordering natto maki the next time you’re out for sushi. The beans are usually chopped fine and since it’s a roll, the smell is unnoticeable.
Recently, I tried a great natto brand—instead of the usual dashi and karashi (hot mustard) packets, this natto came with shiso nori sauce. The nori was a perfect pairing to the distinctively fragrant shiso. And that ganko oyaji on the package—cute. If you have access to a Japanese grocery store and you love natto, this one’s not to be missed!