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Several years ago NHK broadcast an exhaustive special on natto, containing more than you ever cared to know about that much-maligned sticky, stinky dish of fermented soybeans. One of the exciting pieces of information that NHK’s crack investigative journalism revealed was the number of times required to stir natto to a frothy, snotty perfection.

The magic number? 424. Any more agitation and the beans become overworked and loose their stringiness; any less and the right amount of air will not be incorporated — air needed to create just the optimal amount of foam.

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