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Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. It has been consumed in Japan for over 1,000 years for its nutritious and health-promoting properties.

Natto is produced by fermenting boiled soybeans with Bacillus subtilis, a beneficial bacterium that gives natto its distinguished sticky and stringy texture and strong odor. The fermentation process also generates an enzyme called nattokinase, which has been linked to several health benefits.

There are many regional varieties of natto across Japan, including itohiki-natto from Ibaraki prefecture, hama-natto from Okinawa, and shiokara-natto from Hokkaido. Each variety has a unique taste, texture, and way of serving. Natto can be eaten as is, added to rice or noodles, or used as an ingredient in salads, wraps, and dips.

Natto is highly nutritious. It is an excellent source of plant-based protein, providing around 15 grams per serving. Natto also contains vitamin K2, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and selenium. The insoluble fiber in natto aids digestion.

One of the biggest health benefits of natto may come from its nattokinase enzyme. Some research indicates nattokinase has anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant, and anti-hypertensive effects in the body. Most notably, it appears nattokinase may inhibit the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Consuming natto regularly may therefore provide some protection against COVID-19 infection and severity. More research is still needed on this topic however.

As a fermented soyfood with remarkable nutrition, enzymes, and potential health benefits, natto is worthy of the title “Japanese superfood”. Its rich history and regional diversity show just how integral natto is to Japanese cuisine and wellbeing.

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The Japanese have a long history and tradition of pickling vegetables, known as tsukemono. Pickling has been used as a way to preserve seasonal vegetables and add flavor and variety to meals in Japan for centuries.

Some of the most common tsukemono are pickled cucumbers, radishes, eggplant, cabbage, and ginger. However, each region in Japan also has its own famous local tsukemono that highlight specialty produce and flavors.

For example, Kyoto is renowned for takuan, a pickled daikon radish, while Miyagi prefecture is known for jizakezuke - small radishes pickled together with shrimp and fish. Other regional specialties include Fukujin-zuke from Fukui prefecture, and pickled mustard greens (takana-zuke) from Aso, Kumamoto.

The local ingredients and recipes give each regional tsukemono its signature taste and texture. Trying the diverse pickled vegetables across Japan is a delicious way to appreciate the breadth of Japanese food culture.

In addition to regional diversity, the pickling process brings out umami flavor while preserving nutrients. Tsukemono are low in fat and calories but high in probiotics, vitamins, and digestive enzymes. They balance a meal and aid digestion.

With a long history intertwined with local cuisine and culture, Japanese pickled vegetables are both healthy and highlight the diversity of Japanese food traditions. The regional specialties showcase local flavors and ingredients.

Soy sauce is an indispensable seasoning and fermented food in Japanese cuisine. This umami-packed, savory sauce made from soybeans, wheat, salt, and koji mold has been produced in Japan for over 1,000 years. Let's explore the complex world of Japanese soy sauce.

References to early forms of soy sauce in Japan date back to the 7th century CE. By the Kamakura period (1185-1333) it had become a staple seasoning. Soy sauce was originally called shoyu and produced in Buddhist temples.

Many regional varieties of soy sauce emerged over the centuries:

Kanto region - Usukuchi shoyu (light color, delicate flavor)

Kansai region - Koikuchi shoyu (dark color, strong flavor)

Kyushu - Light and mildly sweet tamari shoyu

Okinawa - Dark, rich sauce blending soy with the local spirit awamori

Specialty sauces also developed, like:

Saishikomi - Twice-brewed for deeper flavor

Shiro shoyu - Made with more wheat, golden hue

Soy sauce contains protein, carbs, fiber, probiotics, and antioxidants. It has anti-cancer and heart health benefits. The savory umami compounds glutamates, ribonucleotides and amino acids provide a flavor boost.

In Japan, soy sauce is ubiquitous - enhancing sushi, dipping sauces, stir fries, marinades and dressings. A few dashes amplify the flavors of any dish.

From delicate usukuchi to hearty Okinawan sauces, soy sauce is a fermented Japanese treasure. Its balanced sweetness, saltiness, and aroma reflect centuries of artful brewing mastery.

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