Question: Hello Monique, I read your article about Tempeh. What is the difference between Tempeh and Natto? Or are they the same thing? I am curious. Thank you for your works. Aya
Answer: No, they are not the same thing. While both are fermented soybean products, that is where the similarity ends.
Tempeh originated in Indonesia more than 2,000 years ago. It is made from cracked, cooked soybeans, mixed with a grain such as millet, rice or barley (and sometimes all three). It is inoculated with a beneficial bacteria to give it a meaty/mushroomy taste and firm chewy texture, and pressed block. Tempeh can be stir-fried, sauteed, baked, microwaved and stewed.
Natto, on the other hand originated in Japan around 1,000 years ago. It is made of fermented, cooked whole soybeans. However, no bacteria is added and it has a sticky, gelatinous coating with a cottage cheese-like texture and strong smell (tempeh has almost no odor and is dry to the touch). Natto is traditionally served as a topping for rice, in miso soups or added to vegetables. In Japan, it is often eaten for breakfast. (They like to mix it with a raw egg, soy sauce and some mustard.)
Because the fermentation process breaks down the complex proteins found in soybeans, both tempeh and natto are more easily digested than whole soybeans and non-fermented soy foods. They are also loaded with vitamins, fiber and protein. Both can be found in Asian and natural food stores. Recently, many supermarkets have begun to stock tempeh in the refrigerated sections of their produce department.
The medical benefits for both these fermented soy products have become widely recognized, and include the prevention of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, osteoporosis and digestive disorders. This has resulted in their increased popularity.
For more information about soy and tempeh, read my book Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook and The Tempeh Cookbook by Dorothy R. Bates
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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.