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Paia Eats: Iwamoto Natto Factory Natto

The very first stop I made on my recent trip to Maui was a walk through Ah Fook’s Supermarket in Kahului. After seeing the unique products they carried, it was also the last stop I made on my way back to the airport heading home to Honolulu. One of those unique products I brought back with me was this here Natto, made by Iwamoto Natto Factory in Paia, the same folks who make the undried saimin for Sam Sato’s.

Come to find out, the original Iwamoto family who founded the company were bought out in 1965 by the Yamashita family, with Robert and Patsy Yamashita, along with their son Daryl now operating the business. In fact, the noodle making equipment they still use to this day were given to them from Sam Sato himself way back when. This, according to Patsy, who I had a very nice conversation with over the phone a few days ago.

So here we have Iwamoto Natto Factory’s Natto, a Japanese delicacy that many outside of the culture may find repulsive, yet I think it’s absolutely oishii!…

Unlike the usual natto packaging in the form of a lidded square styrofoam container with a small packet of karashi mustard and soy sauce or other sauce, Iwamoto’s Natto is packaged in this here plastic container with nothing else included… not even instructions how to eat it. “Ouch” for those not familiar with eating Natto!

The proper way to serve Natto is to stir it vigorously with chopsticks to froth-up the gooey fermented slime that carries the soy beans. The best way to do this is by transfering it into a larger, sturdy bowl that won’t introduce any plastic or styrofoam matter into the Natto. Then you just take your chopsticks to it and stir away briskly until it froths up, which takes less than a minute…

After it’s frothed-up, this is the point where you can add more punch to the party, as Natto by itself is rather bland, save for its robust coffee bean-like element. A small drizzle of shoyu and chopped green onion (negi) works for me…

Then stir again to combine…

A very important key accompanyment that many (on YouTube) fail to understand is that the best way to enjoy Natto is by eating it atop a bowl of hot, steamed white rice…

Enhanced even further by the accompanyment of tsukemeno – in this case Takuan (pickled daikon) and Beni Shoga (pickled ginger).

Here you see Iwamoto’s Natto in all its ooey-gooey glory. Hai, itadakimasu!…

Notice the “hana buttah” like way the fermented “slime” pulls apart. This is good stuff my friends.

Just like this is winnahz, but even better when you mix the beni shoga and takuan in with it!…

Mmmmm.. oishikatta! As mentioned before, Natto is reminiscent of coffee beans that have a more legume-like quality to it. Think of taking boiled peanuts and soaking it in coffee, and it’s kinda what this tastes like. The clincher is that ooey-gooey slime they’re encapsulated in. If you can get over the “snot-like” texture it may remind you of, you’ll be fine. That’s why it’s important to eat it over a bowl of hot steamed rice. That helps to melt that slime over the rice, turning it more into a sauce than anything else. Some folks try to assimilate Natto with spoiled cheese, but I find that a much maligned description of it. In contrary, I find a really pungeant bleu cheese much more repulsive than Natto. Natto is really delicious if you eat it thinking “outside the box”. If you can do that, you’ll really enjoy it!

What? Hama Natto
Who makes it? Iwamoto Natto Factory in Paia, Maui
Where did you buy and how much? Ah Fook’s Supermarket in Kahului, Maui, $2.19 per 4 oz. container
Big shacka to: Robust and balanced bean flavor. Froths-up quickly when stirred. Carrier has nice “pull”. Very healthy.
No shaka to: The undeserving bad reputation Natto gets.
The Tasty Island SPAM Musubi rating: 4

Coming next, we’ll make Sam Sato’s Dry Noodles (a.k.a. Dry Mein) at home using Iwamoto’s Undried Saimin from Ah Fook’s!…


Iwamoto Natto Factory Undried Saimin – 1-1/2 pound package, $4.59 from Ah Fook’s Supermarket in Kahului, Maui

Here’s some fun YouTube clips of folks demonstrating their Natto eating skills…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQaqSvb8bt8]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZuvCAWQt-8]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_u63CwsdMA]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KSZMQ66FLk]

35 thoughts on “Paia Eats: Iwamoto Natto Factory Natto

  • July 9, 2010 at 1:30 pm
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    I was always fascinated by all the different varieties of natto that you can find here in Seattle. But like others, I just can’t get past the smell. I’m a fairly adventurous eater, but to me, natto is just really really wretched. I have a theory that it’s one of those “you have to grow up eating the stuff” kind of things, at least for a lot of folks.

    Reply
  • July 11, 2010 at 9:36 am
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    Ian, as I always mention, the smell of natto reminds me of roasted coffee beans, which there’s nothing wretched at all about that. Quite possibly, I think that slimy texture is psychologically affecting your olfactory senses here.

    Reply
  • June 25, 2013 at 6:51 am
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    Pomai, I have yet to try Natto, but anything that’s healthy, I’m for it. Looks good with takuwan, pickled ginger and rice. In Taiwan they also have Natto, since Taiwan used to belong to Japan for a while.

    Reply
  • June 25, 2013 at 5:53 pm
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    Amy, there was a rerun on Bizarre Foods last night where Andrew Zimmern visited Roy’s in Hawaii Kai. In that segment, Roy personally prepared a “bizarrre” dish for Andrew using raw (not cooked!) Escargot (snails) over Natto. If that’s not as slimy as a dish gets, I don’t know what is! The amazing thing, Andrew LOVED IT! Not surprising actually, coming from the hands of Roy Yamaguchi. Hands down one of the greatest restaurateurs in the world.

    Reply
  • June 26, 2013 at 5:01 am
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    Pomai:
    I gotta admit that I never tried natto when I was a kid growing up though my parents ate it regularly… maybe it was the smell… I dunno… Ironically, I now take nattokinase, which is a dietary supplement that is supposed to aid in keeping the blood thin and preventing strokes and stuff like that. The stuff is expensive, about $25 bucks for a bottle of 30 capsules. Being in Alabama now, I will start looking over the asian markets to see if any carry natto. I saw you mention the “dried” natto… is that an option?

    Reply
    • June 26, 2013 at 5:30 am
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      Keith,

      I still don’t get why folks think Natto has an off-putting smell. To me it smells like roasted coffee beans. $25 for Nattokinase “supplements”? Yikes! I can buy a 4-pack of Natto at the store for right around $2 to $3, including the flavor packet. As pure as Natto gets.

      In fact, same for Goji Berries. While shop keepers in Chinatown have caught on to the Goji Juice craze and started marking them up higher, you can still get the real deal dehydrated Goji Berries in downtown Chinatown for a relatively cheap price, and KNOW you’re eating the real stuff, not drinking “snake oil”.

      Reply
  • June 27, 2013 at 7:08 am
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    Pomai, you have made natto known well now to my cousins and friends on the mainland. My cousins brought some in Asian market and try it for first time and really like it and with takuwa and green onion and pickle ginger. They like it for breakfast with rice like in Japan. Now looking for more recipe to use Natto like in ice cream.
    July 6 is Natto Day.

    Reply
  • June 27, 2013 at 8:56 am
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    Pomai, my wrong it July 10 not 6 Natto Day.

    Reply

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