It might sound like an unusual pairing, but according to Japanese sweet connoisseurs, this is actually a delicious combination!
Do you like natto? It’s a question that foreigners are often asked by Japanese people, who seem to relish in the fact that they brought the world such a freakishly weird food. Made from cooked soybeans fermented with a bacterial starter, natto is considered by many to be an acquired taste, due to its slimy texture, strong smell and intense flavour.
For many Japanese, natto is a breakfast food, served alongside rice, miso soup and various other small dishes found at a traditional morning meal. Recently, however, people have been eating the slimy beans as a snack at any time of the day or night, in a surprising new trend that pairs natto with sweet custard pudding.
After seeing the unusual trend blow up online, we decided to try the treat for ourselves, and with just two ingredients required, it wasn’t going to be a hard one to put together. First up, we put a serving of natto into a shallow bowl, without adding the mustard and sauce packets that come included with the packet.
Then we slid the Japanese “purin”, or custard pudding, out of its pack and sat it neatly on top of the natto. Simply seeing this combination together was a shock to the system, and it looked like even the pudding didn’t know what it was doing there, sitting next to such a pungent partner.
Fighting an urge to give in to common sense and pry these two unlikely ingredients apart, we stuck a spoon into the middle of the mix and stirred thoroughly.
After a minute or so of stirring, we were left with a creamy mix that resembled freshly beaten raw eggs. Now it was time to taste!
We brought a spoonful of the sticky syrup to our mouths, and were surprised to find that the aroma from the pudding completely overpowered any smell from the natto. Despite its weird looks, the mixture was actually delicious, with the custard pudding flavour remaining strong the whole way through, taking away the distinctive pungency of the natto. The beans ended up tasting more like the sweet red beans commonly found in traditional Japanese desserts.
Apparently, the mix even tastes good with the addition of soy sauce, so we poured some in to see what it was like. Sure enough, rather than ruining the dish, it added an extra, salty dimension, giving it a similar taste to that of traditional mitarashi dango sweets.
If you like the taste of custard pudding, chances are you’ll love this dish. Well, as long as you can get past the fact that you’re eating slimy fermented soybeans in there too!
It might seem like an unusual pairing, but given that sweet beans are a staple of traditional Japanese desserts, it’s not all that surprising to see Japan fall in love with natto custard pudding. Still, the unconventional dessert might be a little too weird for some tastes. Would you be brave enough to give it a try?
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