Nattodan: Nattou in the Netherlands

Out all Japanese foods there are two I feel particularly attached to. The first is curry rice, which is an extension of my general love of curry. The second is the more divisive fermented soybean product known as nattou. I ate it a lot when I lived in Japan, and it’s a food which I find fulfilling in a way few others are.

Nattou is often times considered one of those culture shock foods, the thing that’s served to scare foreigners away, and although it’s not on the same level as, say, durian or surstroeming (SPELL CHECK), nattou is indeed generally an acquired taste. The problem with that, of course, is that, even if people want to try it and potentially grow to aprpeciate nattou, there may not be many opportunities to do so. In the Netherlands there are Japanese communities such as the one in Amstelveen, but it may be inconvenient to travel there.

Amazingly, I’ve discovered a company which produces and delivers nattou in the Netherlands. Nattodan is a company interested in spreading nattou as a health food, and is actually capable of shipping nattou directly to your door step (provided you live in a Dutch town or city of course). I just recently received my first delivery, which costed me 32 euros for 900 grams’ worth. It’s fairly steep, especially compared to prices in Japan or even a larger city with a decent Japanese population like New York City or Los Angeles, but it does have that delivery convenience in its favor, and it does come with a freezable gel pack which I’ll probably keep for future use for other things.

In terms of taste it’s definitely nattou. I’ve been told that I’m a poor judge of whether an exotic food is safe for normal people to consume, but if I had to describe why I like nattou it’s because it has this combination of a savory and nutty flavor which mixes tremendously well with rice. It’s somewhat known for its smell, being a fermented product and all, but I know that Nattodan has taken efforts to make it less pungent compared to the nattou you’d normally be able to find in Japan. I enjoy the smell so it doesn’t bother me either way, but keep in mind that the scent isn’t entirely gone. The delivery also didn’t come with the bit of spicy mustard and soy sauce which usually accompany Japanese-made nattou packs. It’s not necessary, but it’s one of those things that can make eating nattou more pleasant for some.

If you’re living in the Netherlands and you’re just curious about nattou and its many mysteries, give it a shot. Due to delivery costs it’s not “worth” it to only buy one or two packs, but of course it’s not a food people are guaranteed to like. So, my advice is to hold a party or something, possibly themed around Japanese foods, and just order some so you and your friends can all try it out. Call it a dare, call it a culinary adventure, but see if nattou is right for you.

My Friend the Nattou

Following a Sunday where I delighted myself with a traditional Irish breakfast (blood pudding is delicious), I spent Labor Day with friends at the New Jersey Japanese-based Mall known as Mitsuwa. The last time I was there was over a year ago, and I looked to relive some of that experience, particularly when it came to my dining experience. I knew before I even went that I had to get the Nattou Set, otherwise known as a traditional Japanese breakfast. And just as the idea of a pudding made of blood turns some off, so does the sticky stringy fermented soybean dish known as nattou.

I am well aware of the fact that nattou is easily purchasable in New York City, but I tend to not buy it these days as a courtesy to others. I owe a lot to nattou, as it was the key food in keeping me healthy and keeping my wallet fat while I studied in Japan. It is perhaps as important to my time in Japan as my bicycle and Ogiue (Ogiue riding a bike while eating nattou?) The traditional nattou-based breakfast is a combination of rice, nattou, and raw egg. Each bite was a combination of satisfaction, strong-yet-pleasant flavor, and nostalgia.

It is delicious, if you’re me. A friend of mine who accompanied me to Mitsuwa knew of my affinity for nattou, and so he decided to try it for the first time. One whiff and he decided to hand it over to me. I was happy to oblige.

As an aside, I thought of purchasing some manga or something while I was there, and I had my eye on a volume of the original Japanese Kino’s Journey light novel. I then realized that, having seen the anime, I already knew much of the story and decided to hold off on it, at least for now. Oh, but Volume 7 of La Sommeliere is out. I’m only up to volume 3, so I can’t jump the gun just yet. Sadly I couldn’t find Patrick Macias’ “Otaku in USA,” though I’m sure Kinokuniya or something has it. No worries there.