A few weeks ago, I ate dinner with my friend Joyce from Chicago Agashi, at a great Chicago restaurant called Izakaya Mita. A while back, Joyce interviewed me about losing a hot dog cookoff (which you can read about here). Losing a hot dog cookoff is pretty cool. It feels good to lose every competition you’re in, because I lose at everything, especially in this wild game called life.
Izakaya Mita is a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant. An izakaya is where you go to have casual drinks and food. In most of Asia, you generally eat while you drink, so you don’t make mistakes like I did, like going home with your mom that one fateful evening before you were born. I look back at that night with carnal disgust and fondness. Also, I’m your father. Surprise!
Brian Mita is one of the co-owners of Izakaya Mita, pictured on the right. Actually, that’s George Takei, from Star Wars. George played Han Sulu. George Takei is Brian’s best friend, as you can see in this photo. Brian is on the left. He’s very handsome and nice. I am basically saying this so Brian gives me free sake when I go to his restaurant.
Here is a cool video of George Takei from Star Wars.
People often brag about knowing restaurant owners because it makes them feel good about themselves. They can say things like, “I know Brian, now please give me a discount or free food.” Please do not do that. It makes you look very sad.
I have been recognized at restaurants in the past and the owners try to give me free food; I usually decline and pay for whatever I have ordered. You see, I have ethics, unlike a lot of bloggers. Just kidding, I have no ethics!
You might think I know Brian from food writing, but you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. I actually met Brian on the set of one of the worst movies ever made, Transformers 4: Age of Extinction.
The last time I was unemployed (before this current awful stint of unemployment), I was cast as an extra in the movie. If you don’t believe me, I have some photos that got taken by a paparazzi at Seibertron.com. The wardrobe department put me in a Cosby sweater (actually, I just call them “sweaters” now because Bill Cosby is a scumbag) and I was told by the famously volatile director Michael Bay to run around looking scared at nothing in particular.
I won an Oscar for my performance.
When I was on set, the crew fed me and paid me minimum wage while I sweated my balls off in 90 degree weather. I worked for about 5 days (on average 12 hours per day!). I got to see insane explosions, cars flipping over, boats dropped from a crane, an expletive-laced tirade from Michael Bay, and I even saw Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci walking around, covered in fake soot. But on a few of those days, I met Brian, and we have been friends ever since. Running away from imaginary robot monsters forges wonderful friendships.
Also, I learned that professionally, I am not known as an “extra,” but rather, a “background actor.” Michael Bay calls me all the time asking me to be in his movies, but I’m too busy being a loser so I always say no.
— Joyce aka 시카고 아가씨 (@chicagoagashi) September 19, 2015
When I was at Izakaya Mita with Joyce, we tried something called natto. Natto is a Japanese fermented soybean dish that is unlike anything else edible on the face of this planet. When you stir it, it produces a slime not unlike mucus or semen. Joyce took that video above, so you can relive the experience with me.
Natto is very strange. It has the scent of feet and an earthy flavor that finishes bitterly, and boy, that slime does not disappoint. I decided that day that I did not like natto very much and proudly declared that I would never eat it again. After some light witty banter with Brian, we came up with a new way to use the sludgy ingredient.
Brian said, “Dannis Ree, how can you use natto to bring it to a wider (whiter) audience in the way that you ruin all food on your stupid website?”
And so I spoketh: “Let us make natto baked beans.” Which meant I had to eat natto again, so that vow about not eating natto lasted a whole five minutes.
Brian didn’t actually say that.
Baked beans from a can are staples at many summer barbecues. I enjoy baked beans rather often, since they are overly sweet and good for my diabetes. The ingredients for homemade baked beans are relatively simple; all you need are beans, onions, molasses, mustard, ketchup, and a sweetener like maple syrup or brown sugar.
You may wonder why I chose Aunt Jemima, but that is only because I don’t respect myself as a serious food writer, and neither should you.
You can buy natto from some Asian grocery stores in the frozen section. It comes in cute styrofoam containers that hold about a single serving.
Once you defrost the containers, the slime in the natto activates, and gets extremely sticky, as you can see here. The stringiness reminds me of a sinus infection. A sinus infection is a good description to use when you are talking about food.
Basically, all you need to do is mix the ingredients together in a bowl. This is one of the easiest dishes you can make, really.
The more you mix it, the more exponentially sludgy it gets. It’s pretty impressive. I got it all over your mother’s face and chest, just like in those movies we like to watch together in our “private time.”
Not everyone uses pork products in their baked beans, but since it is pretty cool to add bacon to everything, I crisped some up just for shits and giggles. Mostly shits.
Once I incorporated the bacon, I put it all in a baking pan that I should probably never use again.
I baked the natto baked beans for an hour at a moderate temperature. My apartment took on a ridiculously powerful fetid smell, a smell that still lingers on through this very moment. If you combined sweaty socks with the taint of an unwashed football player, that would be a pretty good approximation of the aroma. It’s not often a smell makes me feel tingly in my bad places, but this was pretty impressive.
That’s all you need to do! They look like regular baked beans!
They do not taste like regular baked beans. The slime cooks off, so at least you don’t have that to contend with. But you do have to deal with its strange flavor, which is an amplified bitterness reminiscent of blue cheese and children’s tears. The sweet cooked onions are barely noticeable, and the bacon does not help you forget that you’re eating probiotically inseminated soybeans. “Probiotically inseminated soybeans” are probably the best three words to live together in the same sentence.
If anything, I still consider this a success, since a lot of you probably didn’t know natto existed anyway. The moral of the story is, go to Izakaya Mita, say hi to Brian, buy lots of food and sake, and if you’re feeling frisky, try the natto for yourself. Tell him Michael Bay sent you.
Natto Baked Beans
- 1 package natto, defrosted and mixed up for maximum snot factor
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- I don’t know, a squirt of ketchup
- A drizzle of mole-asses
- Aunt Jemima (all of it)
- Just a touch of mustard, like the kiss of an angel
- Browned bacon (I browned your mother last night and I am still the last champion of “yo momma” jokes)
Mix all that shit together and put it in the oven for an hour at 325°F, or better yet, go outside and enjoy the warm Indian summer, a term which I’m trying to figure out whether or not is racist.