Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

I have to confess that I do get tired sometimes of people describing Japanese food as ‘weird’ ‘odd’ ‘disgusting’ and so on. It’s a very ethnocentric way of describing things, is it not? What is disgusting and horrible to one set of people is normal and delicious to another.

Anyway, recently JH reader Sylvia sent me the link to this Wall Street Journal article, which had the heading “Where the Slimy Things Are: In Japan, an expat family’s love affair with ‘gross’ dishes”. Yeah yeah, to your average white American I suppose maguro natto, a mixture of raw tuna cubes and our old friend natto, is ‘gross’. What can I say - Japanese people in general love slimy food, even if quite a few don’t like natto (the reason for their dislike is usually the smell rather than the slime).

You want slime? I’ll give you slime!

In any case, the article gave me a craving, not for maguro natto, but for something way slimier. I’m not really sure it has a proper name, but I know it as yamaimo okura natto nebaneba bo-ru (山芋オクラ納豆ネバネバボール)- loosely translated as Sticky-slimy yamaimo, okra and natto bowl. The name just about describes it. (I’ve also seen it called yama no ue no okura (Okra on top of the mountain - yama means mountain).

This is what it looks like.

nebaneba_500.jpg

Pretty, yes? Okra, despite its belittled slime, is really one of the prettiest vegetables out there. The slices look like little stars, and the green on white with the red of the ikura or salmon caviar is really nice.

However, looks can be deceiving. If you are timid of nature, or are adverse to slimy textures, you may want to avoid this. Let’s take a good look at it close up:

nebaneba2_500.jpg

See the glistening gooey stuff? That is slime: the combined slimy goodness from grated yamaimo or nagaimo, natto and okra, with the option of adding a raw egg. Mmmm.

If, on the other hand, you are a bit adventurous, give it a go! The most difficult thing about making it is assembling the ingredients, and I was able to do so even in Zürich. If you live in an area with Japanese groceries, you should have no trouble.

Recipe: Sticky-slimy yamaimo, okra and natto bowl - Yamaimo okura natto nebaneba bo-ru (山芋オクラ納豆ネバネバボール )

This is enough for 2-4 slime-loving people or about 30 timid people who want just a taste on a dare, then run away screaming.

  • 300g / about 10 oz nagaimo (available at Japanese grocery stores. You need about a 20cm/7inch or so cut piece)
  • 1 50g packet natto
  • 2 fresh okra
  • 2 Tbs. ikura or salmon caviar
  • 1 very fresh raw chicken egg (optional)
  • soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. wasabi (optional)

Rub a little salt onto the okra. Blanch for a couple of minutes in boiling water, then drain. Cut into small rounds and set aside.

Peel the raw nagaimo. Grate on a coarse grater, or smash it up in a suribachi. Wash your hands well, and set aside.

Add a pinch of salt to the natto, and mix very well with a spoon until it gets sticky and slimy.

Put the grated or mashed nagaimo in a bowl, and mound the natto on top. Sprinkle on th okra slices and ikura or salmon caviar. Top with the optional wasabi.

To serve, add the optional raw egg.

nebaneba3_500.jpg

Drizzle on some soy sauce.

nebaneba4_500.jpg

Now, take a pair of chopsticks and mix very well.

nebaneba5_500.jpg

Keep mixing vigorously. You want an amalgamated bowl of slime!

nebaneba6_500.jpg

Serve spooned on top of hot rice. You may want to add a bit more soy sauce and/or wasabi at this point. Mix well with the rice, and eat with a spoon, or by bring the rice bowl to your mouth and shoveling it in with your chopsticks.

nebaneba7_500.jpg

My stepfather absolutely loves this, and so do I. Will you? That I cannot say.

[Edit:] We had this for dinner last night actually (before I took the pics). This morning I was reminded of how, eh, regular it makes you. It is after all just full of fiber - the sliminess of the nagaimo and the okra is indeed that, and natto is packed with beneficial bacteria that makes your intestinal flora happy. Hey, a natural constipation remedy! ^_^

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Ethnocentric

I’m not that Sylvia - but your post did make me remember sharing a kitchen with a couple of filipinas years ago. I made myself a cheese omelette and they were huddled around me, watching with awed eyes. I asked if one of them wanted to try a bite and there was a loud conversation in tagalog before one of them was pushed forward by the others as the designated volunteer.

I couldn’t help laughing - it was just a cheese omelette, for gods sake. But they were totally disgusted by the thought of cheese. Oh sure, they’d heard of it but they didn’t REALLY believe that anyone would eat such a thing.

Sylvia | 30 September, 2008 - 18:23

Maybe they found the idea of

Maybe they found the idea of cheese omelette strange rather than cheese per se? They make cheese in the Philippines, carabao milk cheese in fact. It’s called kesong puti (white cheese). Another common cheese is queso de bola (Spanish for “ball of cheese”) which is edam.

There are several omelette type recipes in Filipino cuisine but I don’t think egg+cheese is a traditional combination.

Kai | 2 October, 2008 - 12:01

You may be right -

You may be right - communication was difficult and it may be the combination that was putting them off.

Sylvia | 2 October, 2008 - 18:00

I like okra w/raw egg. I

I like okra w/raw egg. I like ikura. But I think that’s where I’ll end. Still not a fan of natto or grated nagaimo. :(

yoko | 30 September, 2008 - 19:09

Oh heavens!

I must try this! I like natto and grated okara was my favourite in childhood ! Never thought about adding the ikura, but just thinking about the combination .. it must be good!
:)

karaimame | 30 September, 2008 - 21:48

this makes my toes curl with

this makes my toes curl with absolute desire! i <3 all of the ingredients with rice on their own (yep, even the natto and the raw egg)… but all together??? amazing. looks delish!

americnjewl | 1 October, 2008 - 01:54

omg that looks good

I can’t wait to make it!

missdk | 1 October, 2008 - 02:15

yes.

That is pure awesomeness.

Greg | 1 October, 2008 - 03:47

I have some natto in my

I have some natto in my freezer, I keep meaning to try it.

cmtigger | 1 October, 2008 - 04:29

I have to try this

I tried natto awhile back at a Japanese restaurant with a friend. We had ordered some sashimi, some grilled fish and he wanted some natto - which he fell in love with while being a student in Japan, to eat with rice. I was a bit grossed out by it at that time, not due to the slimey texture. I have no problem with slimey, but the smell was a bit too much for me. It has been years and each time I got to the Japanese grocery store, I tell myself, one of these days, I gotta get me some natto again to try!

And recently while surfing online, I read about grated nagaimo and how nutritious it is and thought it would be something good to try.

And then today I saw this post with those two ingredients together. It must be a sign! I gotta go get some of this soon….

Wakkun | 1 October, 2008 - 05:09

The last stage looks good.

The last stage looks good. The first stage looks lovely, but just like a pretty pile of things. The middle stirrin’-up-the-slime photos are a little hard for my slime-nervous self. I would try it. And get someone else to do all the stirring up.

Ariel | 1 October, 2008 - 05:48

...mmmmm.

Hello, I`m a first-time commenter, long-time reader.

Ive been looking for recipes with nattocause I kinda dont like it by itself. But, I love nagaimo! The okra is adorable amongst the slime. Cant wait to try it…

Nyssa | 1 October, 2008 - 10:03

I think if I read that WSJ

I think if I read that WSJ article I will have an aneurysm from angry. I hate it when people say things like “oh, look at what those wacky -fill in the ethnicity- people eat!” It seems insulting to me.

There aren’t many things I won’t try at least once.

Dina | 1 October, 2008 - 10:29

Same here. I really hate it

Same here. I really hate it when people point out “weird” foods or even cultural habits like we’re all supposed to eat and act the same way.

If everyone only stuck to the food in “their” ethnic group, would North America even have enough variety to last 7 days?

It bugs me moreso living in Japan when people (sometimes friends) come to visit and laugh about the “crazy” things eaten here, or worse, refuse to eat anything that isn’t McDonalds, just because it isn’t what they’re used to.

Izumi | 1 October, 2008 - 17:43

You may not want to read

You may not want to read this post then.

When I was a junior in high school, I got to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip: seven days in Hong Kong and three in Guangzhou—in the 1980s! We sold tons of raffle tickets to pay for the class trip and got some really good deals through a travel agent. So on our very last day there, possibly the very last day any of us would ever spend out of the country unless we joined the military, where does the tour leader pick for dinner?

PIZZA. HUT.

We were not allowed to leave the hotel without the tour leader. So I stayed in the hotel and had one more bowl of what the menu called Hong Kong Noodle Soup.

Foreign readers: Pizza Hut is the lowest common denominator of pizza joints. So he not only took us to an American chain restaurant, but to a lousy American chain restaurant.

I just … I … Pizza Hut. All these years later, it still ticks me off.

Jenny Islander | 3 October, 2008 - 06:35

Oh So Delicious

I had a variation of this recently at my favorite Japanese restaurant - the sushi chef is always coming up with new things to feed me that are vegan (yes, I know - a vegan wasting space at a sushi bar! but my boyfriend eats enough food for the two of us, so I think my presence provides the chef with an amusing challenge). I had this just with the nagaimo, natto, and some nice green onions, served with VERY thick and expensive shoyu on the side, as well as wasabi and a small bowl of rice. How delicious! Years ago, my first few tries of natto were hesitant, not because of the smell or texture for myself, but because of my fear of what others around me might think. Let me just say: get over it! That kind of stupid thinking (“ew, strange food”) will keep you from finding wonderful new tastes!

Beth | 1 October, 2008 - 16:32

Average white Americans

From the article:
“Some Japanese consider it too vile for human consumption.”

I never knew so many Japanese were “average white Americans”. Just saying this because I have known more than a few of them personally.

Soupmonkey | 1 October, 2008 - 18:14

Yummy

My mouth has been watering ever since I saw your lovely photos.

Junko | 1 October, 2008 - 21:49

Maki — I came to your

Maki — I came to your website last week looking for exactly this recipe and was disappointed that you didn’t have one. And now you do! I am so excited that you posted this. At a japanese restaurant a few months ago, my half-japanese friend ordered something like this for the table and I absolutely loved it.

cat | 2 October, 2008 - 03:35

Just Slimy? ;)

Your site makes my meals much more fun! Thank you so much for your efforts! BTW, I hugely admire that you’ve used the word “slime” (or some variation) 18 times in this post. The perfect amount of repetition to make your point!

First impressions of fraternity “initiation food” aside, I love being introduced to other textures and flavours through JH. Widening our (culinary) horizons makes us all better global citizens, ne? I can’t wait to dig into the first viscous bowlful! This may be the first “unstealable” lunch for my office fridge, ha ha.

After rifling through my Japanese cookbook, may I suggest an appropriately lubricious addition? Nameko!? I’ll lay off before this dish becomes a contest… :)

Mike | 2 October, 2008 - 03:35

nameko

Good point about the slimy nameko! But it needs to be cooked I think…so might not be suited for this bowl. Nameko misoshiru is so good, with those little bites of slipperiness.

maki | 2 October, 2008 - 17:36

This makes me want to give

This makes me want to give natto another try, it looks really delicious somehow in this dish and I already love okra :3

Mab | 2 October, 2008 - 08:58

Comments like that always

Comments like that always crack me up, especially since I think Japanese food is a lot less “weird” than a lot of other Asian cuisines when compared to the normal American diet. I LOVE yamaimo and I love yamaimo okura natto nebaneba bo-ru! Thanks for the recipe.

Fuji Mama | 3 October, 2008 - 06:24

Conquer my dislike of lady's fingers

I have to admit I thought the first picture was so pretty with star-shaped vegetables until it hit me that that was lady’s fingers. One of my most hated vegtable because of the sliminess. But this dish looks too pretty to not try. So I’m gonna conquer my dislike for lady’s fingers. :P

Thank you for this recipe!

Jessica | 3 October, 2008 - 12:23

willing to try

This looks interesting…

Alisa | 4 October, 2008 - 12:14

That does look quite good.

That does look quite good. I’d try it, if I didn’t think it would take forever to hunt down the ikura. ‘Cause about anything with raw okra and natto must be…yum.

Katie | 4 October, 2008 - 23:36

oh the hypocrisy. How

oh the hypocrisy. How “disgusting”, or not, is the ground-up flesh of a large dead mammal known as a cow, formed into a patty and fried in old grease? Why is this ok and some slimy vegetables not?

Admittedly yamaimo with its slimy fixings was too overwhelming for me the first time I tried it in Fukuoka. But I will definitely give it another go :)

anna | 5 October, 2008 - 14:34

Awesome

I love natto but didn’t know how else to eat it besides right out of the box.I like that this recipe makes a complete meal when eaten with rice. Can’t wait to try it!

Grace | 7 October, 2008 - 22:14

Oh c'mon...

Some chinese dishes are slimy as well when you add cornstarch to it :x
Those gooey, transparent, white salty stuff that my grandpa refers to as salty paper glue on vegetables.. but they’re cooked.

Can’t wait to try something like this after natto!

MitarashiDango | 8 October, 2008 - 09:19

This looks like a dish for fear factor.

I usually love your recipes but… Err lets just say i hope it tastes better than it looks. But then again I almost vomited the first time I had natto sushi.

Myron | 11 October, 2008 - 08:36

Dear Maki I’ve just posted

Dear Maki
I’ve just posted a comment a few minutes ago. Its title was “Time to say THANK YOU”. Apparently I got the CAPTCHA code wrong. I’m not sure if you can still “save” my comment or if it is lost for good.
If it is lost I’ll be back soon to say thank you again, as I greatly appreciate the time and effort you invest in your blogs.

beatrice

beatrice | 12 October, 2008 - 21:53

Hi Beatrice - it does look

Hi Beatrice - it does look like your comment got swallowed up, but I appreciate it anyway :)

maki | 12 October, 2008 - 22:33

other slimy goodness

Natto has long been one of my favorites, as is nagaimo. I’ve never really thought of mixing the two. My colleagues often cringe when I order maguro natto at the sushi bar while they enjoy their california rolls and unagi. But perhaps one of the other “slimy” things that gets their stomachs churning that I simply love is ika uni ae.

Many thanks for the continued work on the blogs, enjoyable as always.

Jeff | 15 October, 2008 - 05:12

Delicious!

I saw this dish and found it quite intriguing. It had a lot of things I liked, and somewhat reminded me of my beloved tamago gohan. So I went to the nearest store and bought all the ingredients for it, and I was not disappointed! It was absolutely delicious! Has the great sliminess of nagaimo and natto, with little crunchy slimes of okara. I will definitely make this again. Highly recommended ^_^!

Thanks for posting!!

Brittni | 27 October, 2008 - 03:31

mmmmm this looks so yummy.

mmmmm this looks so yummy. If I could get a hold of yamimo, okar, and ikura, I would totally make it. I love slimy food. I remember eating udon that had natto, okra, and yamaimo at a mall in Yokohama.

Anyway, they do have this vegetable called melloco in Ecuador that looks like a small potato and it’s slimy. I think I might try to grate it and see if it is somewhat like yamaimo.

Kathleen | 9 November, 2008 - 15:23

hehehe, I just showed my

hehehe, I just showed my hubby the pics and he said it looks like vomit. He just doesn’t understand.

Again, love your blog. I have already tried 4 recipes and I just found it yesterday! It makes me miss Japan so much though.

Kathleen | 10 November, 2008 - 03:25

Hmm.. Not sure about this one

It looks so good at the end, but the beging scars me. Not one to eat raw egg. Someone let me know how it is!

Monavie | 11 November, 2008 - 00:51

yummers!

OMG! It’s got all of my favorite ingredients! Natto, yamaimo, okra and ikura. I could eat this everyday. For real.

Linda Lee | 1 January, 2009 - 07:32

In defense of American queasiness!

The average American isn't keen on slimy foods, because a slimy texture is a sign that the food has gone off. Many distrust fish other than cat or tuna because of the strong smell and flavor (and the sliminess), and are wary of food that hasn't been cooked to within an inch of char (because it might be off). We are very, very wary of yeasty, pungent flavors, again because the taste of fermentation is the taste of food that might be off.

So what's the most common flavoring in Asian cuisine? Pungent, yeasty, fermented soy sauce. Fish abound, either as themselves or as flavorings, foods are often served lightly cooked (simply waved at the pan, by American standards) and there is a cultural fondness for that gooey, slippery texture.

Yes, Americans are put off by Asian food.

It's ethnocentric, but no more so than the reaction of many immigrants to common American cuisine, which is sweet where it shouldn't be, very acidic, greasy and did we mention they eat PIGS? EW! There's also the reaction of Americans to regional American food outside their home zone, eg grits, pork rinds and poutine, and to Europcan foods like black pudding and hakarl.

So I beseech, with tongue firmly in cheek (in case it's not obvious): don't hate on the American author in an American paper for showing the American distrust of foreign foodstuffs! It's human nature to look over at your neighbor's plate and say, "Sweet monkey buns, how can you eat THAT?!"

mokie | 10 April, 2009 - 07:58

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

I remember having nagaimo and okra over cold soba in Japan. I loved loved loved it!

mel @ bouchonfor2.com | 12 April, 2009 - 11:38

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

had to laugh as I read this....I'm a late born offspring of parents from the depression era, so I was raised very much meat and potatos and maybe something like green beans. We almost never ate out and when we did it was very american based food (usually MCL cafeteria)

When I got old enough to have my own money I started trying new things (much to my fathers disgust) at some point I wandered into a Japanese restaurant that had a sushi bar for lunch, it was very quiet...I noticed the sushi chef had a book laying on the counter in the back on metaphysics, so we got to chatting about that and became good friends. I had told him about growing up eating very bland food and that I was branching out but it sometimes took a couple tries to really get a taste for something, he had great fun challenging me with all kinds of things, often stuff that wasn't even on the menu.

We found I could handle just about anything except things with a very slimy texture, I think because I have really bad sinus problems and it just reminds me of being sick to much. Baby octupus sushi an baby whitefish sushi were the only things that ever triggered my gag reflex out of all the unusual (to me) things Dagu introduced me to. I'm seriously suprised he never plopped this down in front of me :)

Bless him though, because he got me hooked on a healthier way of eating, and often when I came in and told him I'd have to just have an eel roll and some rice or something he would often "accidently" very minorly mess up something someone else ordered and ask me if I wanted it, or he'd have something that "need to be used today, like now, and I don't think anyone will order it"

I often walked in at dinner opening time and closed the restarrant with him and the staff six hours later, nibbling various things and sharing sake or japanes beer with him and talking about anything and everything. He had led a very intersting life and I really enjoyed his company. I had to move very far away at one point, and have moved back to the general area but still have a 100 mile round trip if I want to go to the restaurant....I've been back a year and my finances are really bad...so I've not been, I haven't had the heart to call him and see if he still works there or not. It wouldn't be same with out him.

Okay, sorry, random blabbering, but you brought back a wonderfully fond memory for me with this, even though I would probably be among the "30 or so people who would taste it and run away screaming" I would at leas TRY it. :)

rhiannon | 2 May, 2009 - 03:23

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

I think you would love soupe kandia if you ever get the occasion to try it. It is a Senegalese sauce made from okra, fish and sea food, known to be elastic and super slimy.

anon. | 21 June, 2009 - 10:40

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

Thank you for an excellent recipe, i have tried it out and it was great. I loved it, and my husband liked it very much too. So now (since I bought a whole bag of okra) I am looking for some other recipes to use okra before they go bad. I am wondering if anyone can suggest a recipe which uses okra.

Natalia | 16 July, 2009 - 23:36

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

I can handle fish eggs and okra, but the slimyness of the whole, will probably prevent me from ever trying it. Do you think it would be good cooked?(Like scrambled eggs)

I have had some issues with people saying that the food I eat is "weird". My step-dad and siblings are Chicano so Naturally my family eats alot of Mexican and Texican* food. "Weird" item #1: choriso(sausage of innards only), item #2: pozole (innard soup), item #3: adobo(coyote stew), item #4: seviche(Mexican sashimi), item #5: tacos de huevos con nopales(eggs and cactus in a tortilla, cactus is slimy until you rinse it off), etc... So I guess it happens with all cultures. In my experience though, Most foods are good if you can get past the texture and the thought of where on the critter it came from.

*Texican is a fusion of Latin-American and Anglo-American cooking. Two good examples: The burrito and chilli beans.

オタク | 24 September, 2009 - 22:58

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

Some of my favorite things all together! I can't wait to try. :)

anon. | 1 May, 2013 - 00:47

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

This looks amazing!

This may sound like a silly question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. Is this preservable, like for leftovers? I'm only cooking for myself, so I'm wondering if I could make a batch and put half in a tupperware to eat the next day. But I'm not sure how the egg or the slimy consistency will hold up.

Thanks!

anon. | 22 September, 2013 - 05:16

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

This really needs to be made and eaten right away.

maki | 24 September, 2013 - 07:37

Re: Slimy slimy goodness all together in a bowl

Oh God I love this! Except for the okra. I hate okra. I like natto and yams and raw eggs and fish eggs and raw liver...but okra I wont touch with a ten-foot pole. Maybe its the seeds, or the combination of the hairiness and sliminess and seeds, but okra is just off the menu for me...I

Mila_snezhinka | 8 December, 2013 - 14:29

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