Natto Dinner at Koko Head Café

Because June signals the arrival of the annual Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival – held
again this year at the Event Center at Saint Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday, June 17th from 11:
00am until 5:00pm – get ready for your fill of all things soy and tofu whether it’s plain
steamed edamame all the way up to elaborate tofu based dessert creations.

And then there’s soy and tofu’s often disregarded, distant cousin that usually never shares the
same limelight as the silky and sexy tofu or the rustic and hearty edamame. In fact the two
most common adjectives used for this neglected relative are stinky and slimy. Almost like that
distant uncle or cousin that your relatives always told you to avoid… And his name is Natto.

Alive and Well in the 50th

For the past 6 years, the trio of Scott Pang, Greg Sekiya and Mari Taketa have been organizing
annual natto themed dinners on July 10th – Natto Day (na = 7, to = ten, hence July 10th).
These dinners have become so popular that they are now organizing natto themed dinners
throughout the year. And this past March, they finally convinced transplanted local celebrity
chef, Lee Anne Wong to host a natto dinner at her Koko Head Café in the heart of Kaimuki,
Hawaii. Her menu for the evening looked like this:

Bagna Cauda, natto miso butter
Assorted local veggies were served with a natto-miso dipping sauce
and sprinkled with natto salt. A great start to the meal!

Natto Ume Yamaimo, toasted nori and shiso
The slice of raw yamaimo provided a refreshing
crunch (albeit a slippery crunch) magnified by slippery natto

Ahi Natto Ramen, mustard ponzu tare
Like a basic ramen with natto

Natto Nori Fish Fritters
Like a fresh kamaboko with a crisp exterior
enhanced by earthy natto nuggets

Natto Moco, quail egg and parm dashi
One of the hits of the evening with rich egg yolk,
salty Parmesan cream and crisp croquette

Natto Chicken Zhongzi, shiitake mushroom
Another favorite as the earthy natto and shiitake
balancing the tender morsels of chicken

Kauai Prawns with natto crumble, chili shoyu and turnip
Beef Tataki, goma natto, fingerlings and asparagus
The natto crumble on the prawns were another
epiphany – I need to figure out how to make it!

Natto coffee pudding, sugared natto, chocolate crumble
Though the pudding didn’t set, the coffee perfectly balanced
the natto especially since natto has an inherent coffee flavor

So once dinner concluded, to express my appreciation to the organizing Natto Trio, I provided
them with several mini servings of my own natto dessert, my Chocolate Natto Rice Pudding
with Natto Miso Caramel

Natto Miso Caramel

1 & 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup red miso
1 container of natto (about ¼ cup)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, combine the cream and butter and bring just to a simmer over moderate
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, corn syrup and water and cook over moderately high
heat, without stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Using a
wet pastry brush, wash down any
crystals from the side of the pan. Continue to cook, gently swirling the pan occasionally, until
an amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream mixture; it will bubble up. When the
bubbles subside, very carefully pour the hot caramel into a heatproof blender. With the blender
on medium speed, gradually add spoonfuls of the miso and natto until incorporated. Transfer to
a bowl and let cool, then whisk in the vanilla.

Chocolate Natto Rice Pudding

4 cups whole milk
1 cup Arborio rice
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the milk, rice, sugar, and vanilla extract. Bring the milk
to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently,
until the rice is tender and the mixture thickens, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the pan
from the heat and stir the cocoa powder into the mixture. Add the chocolate chips and stir
until melted. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the Natto Miso Caramel is still warm, place about 2 to 3 tablespoons on the bottom of a
small serving bowl (I use custard cups). Top the Natto Miso Caramel with a scoop of the
Chocolate Natto Rice Pudding and serve.

So while you may be sampling the elegant tofu based desserts at the 7th Annual Soy and Tofu
Festival, consider creating and sampling my natto based dessert once you’re back home.