Red Bean Natto

Natto is typically made using soy beans, but seeing as we can’t have that, I’ve tried making it using red beans. I feel that chickpeas (garbanzo beans) might come closer to the texture and feel of soy beans in this application but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it with red beans.

The recipe calls for steaming the beans first. Pressure steaming greatly speeds up the process so that’s what I did. About 45 minutes at high pressure in my stovetop pressure cooker.

After that, I let it cool to below 40 degC and then added the powdered Natto bacteria culture. After it was thoroughly mixed in, I put the mixture into a shallow Pyrex baking dish, flattened out the beans in the dish and covered it with plastic wrap (touching the beans). The mix goes into the oven, and our Samsung oven is set to the “proof” setting (typically used for proofing wheat-based breads before baking).

This is the mixture after 12 hours overnight.

The above result is after 36 hours. 24 hours was not enough to get the stickyness so I left it in for another overnight period.

The stuff is pretty stinky. I am used to the soy Natto smell but this is quite different. If you know what red bean smells like on its own, you can actually get an idea of what the natto bacteria itself smells like.

On its own, the taste is quite neutral (I.e. not having much of a taste in and of itself) besides a slight bitterness. The texture is essentially like a slimy bean, with a slight grittyness mixed with the slimyness. The red bean texture isn’t as pleasing as a soy texture. Maybe chickpeas is the way to go?

Overall, Growing the natto culture on the red beans was a success, but I think red beans isn’t quite the right bean for Natto.

Molds and fungi starters

I got some starters shipped from GEM Cultures in the US. Making the Koji rice looks to be quite an involved process. The natto seems relatively straightforward – I think that’s what I’ll start with first, to get my feet wet.

(I actually received these packets several weeks ago. I thought I published this post but just found it now in my Drafts. I’ll be posting the natto photos soon…)

Gochujang – my attempt at an allergy friendly version

Today starts my venture into making gochujang, that spicy, tangy fermented paste used in many Korean foods. I’ve been thinking about trying to make it for several weeks now, and have been reading up on whatever I can find on it around the web. Based on a search, it typically includes the following ingredients:

  • Korean red chili powder/flakes
  • Fermented soy bean powder
  • Milled malt barley powder
  • Sweet rice powder
  • Salt
  • Sugar (in various possible forms)
  • Water

The problem is that it has soy, and barley may be contaminated with traces of wheat. What if I could find replacements for the soy and barley? Maybe if I figured out the constituent parts of the soy and barley in terms of protein and carbohydrate percentages I could mix something similar.

I started some preliminary calculations for other easily available beans, then I found a simple version of gochujang made by the people at Ideas in Food using the following recipe:

  • 200g gluten free sourdough starter
  • 200g Korean red chili flakes
  • 200g water
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 35g salt

Now, what’s in their sourdough starter? Sorghum flour and water in equal parts by weight. However, they mention here that they have modified the flour to be a mix of equal parts sorghum and flax meal.

My access to suitable allergy-friendly sorghum is limited, much less in the prices and quantity required for a making a sourdough starter, so I needed find another base flour. I found it in brown rice.

Doing a search on brown rice starters, it typically includes brown rice, water, and a little bit of a bacterial additive such as regular old bread yeast or kefir. I think I’ll try to start mine without the additives. Let’s see if just brown rice and water works. I mixed together the following:

  • 300g brown rice flour
  • 300g water, room temp, filtered through a Brita

The brown rice flour was milled using a Vitamix grinder jar for ~30s to a medium fine grind (the Vitamix isn’t able to do a really fine grind on brown rice for me even if I tamp it and leave it running for over a minute). The filtering through a Brita may also not be needed. It’s just what I had on hand for tap water that was at room temperature.

As for the flax meal, I might try another version of that, in order to give the starter a bit more texture. Flax is much more expensive than brown rice though. So for now I’ll leave it out.

My plan is to see what happens tomorrow and either discard half and feed it after 24 hours, or leave it for another 12-24 hours before the discard/feeding. After about a week, I’ll add the rest of the ingredients to make the gochujang.