Few foods paint upon the blank canvas of a bowl of jasmine rice quite as brilliantly as natto. A much-loved Japanese dish of fermented soybeans, natto complements the rice sitting beneath, its gooey, stringy texture and pungent aroma lending the plain grains a satisfying kick. The moment natto hits my tongue, the luscious mouthfeel leaves me craving another bite.
This simple breakfast—topped with the sharp fragrance of garnishes like mustard, soy sauce, and chopped spring onions—appeared frequently on my family's table when I was growing up. With an enthusiasm instilled in me by my father from the time he spent in Japan, I always devoured natto, delighting in its punchy flavor and never minding its sticky texture. Natto and similarly slick foods such as seaweed and mountain yam (usually known as nagaimo or yamaimo) were permanent fixtures in my diet, their distinctly slippery textures downright slurp-worthy.