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.
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:
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.
Drizzle on some soy sauce.
Now, take a pair of chopsticks and mix very well.
Keep mixing vigorously. You want an amalgamated bowl of slime!
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.
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! ^_^