This site has covered some frankly ridiculous foods in the past. Who could forget our articles on deep-fried caterpillars, the 1050-bacon strip Whopper, or the bright blue curry challenge? But this is the first time we’ve covered something that actually made me throw up in my mouth a little.
A sandwich shop in Suzuka City, Mie Prefecture, has conjured up this ungodly creation and, even more strangely, it seems people want to eat it. It’s called the Natto-Coffee Gelatin Sandwich, and that is exactly what it is: natto and coffee gelatin slathered with whipped cream and plopped on some unoffending white bread. For those of you unfamiliar with natto, it is an extremely stinky and sticky food made from fermented soybeans. Yes, rotting soybeans.
Inexplicably, this sandwich has become one of the shop’s most popular items, leading the representative director Koji Suzumura to explain their motivation in creating this abomination.
The sandwich was actually invented by a family member who previously ran the shop. “One day, he was sitting at home thinking about new menu ideas. He opened the refrigerator and a pack of natto happened to tumble out. There was also some coffee gelatin in the fridge, so he decided to try spreading the two on bread,” says Suzumura. And so, in the summer of 1997, the sandwich debuted. But it wasn’t exactly a hit right away.
“I was actually the one who tried the first natto-coffee gelatin sandwich,” recalls Suzumura. “I honestly didn’t think it was very good. I thought maybe he was giving it to me as a joke or something… It didn’t sell at all, and I thought we would have to discontinue it, but since it was such a unique item, maybe the only one in the world, I thought we should try and find a way to continue with it. So, after about 4 years, I played around with it and made some improvements to the ingredients and the proportions,” he explains.
When asked if the improvements made the sandwich taste better, Suzumura modestly replies, “Well, I thought it might be approaching edible.”
Over the years, the sandwich was featured in various media and on the internet and started to gain a reputation. Now it’s one of the shop’s top 3 best-sellers. However, Suzumura himself is a bit bemused by its popularity. “People say it’s really delicious or interesting, but I don’t really get it. I’m just happy if my customers are happy.”
The goal of his shop is to create sandwiches that fit the Japanese palette, so a lot of the menu items make use of common Japanese side dishes. “Our policy is, if it fits between two pieces of bread, let’s give it a try. We’ve invented a lot of sandwiches this way, not just the natto-coffee gelatin one. We’ve tried sponge cake, saury, lobster, abalone, minced tuna,” says Suzumura.
The saury sandwich placed cooked saury and rice between two slices and was something of a surprise. The minced tuna however had a very fishy smell and was discontinued after just two weeks despite its inventiveness.
Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose, but I think I’ll stick with good old-fashioned cold cuts in my sandwiches. If you would like to take on the natto-coffee gelatin sandwich, you’ll have to journey to Mie Prefecture, as it’s only available there. On the plus side, it will only cost you 325 yen (US$3.65) to assault your taste buds once you are there.