Natto 3: Ann’s Pressure Cooker Method

This is a guest recipe from Ann who was commenting on the post Natto 2: Fermentation Boogaloo.



What You Need

  • Natto culture (see picture of Raffy showing packet)
  • 250 g of ORGANIC soybeans
  • 1 container with lid. I used a plastic one with clip on lid. 20 x 14 x 7 cms – wall of beans should not be more than three high.
  • A piece of cheese cloth that is draped over box of beans before pushing lid on. A bit of a struggle and that is why you need something like a fine muslin.
  • I am extremely fortunate enough to have an up market dehydrator (given by rich friend) and so keeping a constant heat of 100 degrees was easy. However, any form will do as long as you can keep that heat constant for between -22-24 hrs. I got so neurotic, I bought an oven thermometer just to check every now and again.

natto culture

Natto culture


  1. Soak the beans for 24 hrs.
  2. Drain and pressure cook for approx 8 mins. Try a little less like 7 mins first of all, just in case your pressure cooker is better than mine. The beans should still be whole, but if pressed between finger and thumb, they should be soft. You do not want them mushy.
  3. While all that is going on take the tiny spoon that comes with culture and put it in a small container with 10-20 ml of already boiled water. WATER MUST BE TEPID. All of your utensils including cheese cloth, must be sterilized with scalding water to avoid contamination of the culture.
  4. When the beans are cooked, lift out of pressure cooker and tip them into your sterilized container and after the steam has left (3-4 mins) stir in the mixed culture and water. Be sure to mix thoroughly but don’t bash the beans about too much. A nice slow mix and turn is good.
  5. Place the fine cloth over the top and push down the press on lid. Place this in whichever method, apparatus you have chosen and ferment for 22-24 hrs. At the end you are looking for something that is covered with what looks like a mild frost.

I have now cooked by this method a couple of times and it works beautifully. I hope you find this easy to follow and you have success.


Low Food Reward: Tuna + Tomato Paste + Rice

I came up with a low food reward idea. Mix a can of tuna with a can of tomato paste and rice.

This is a true appetite crusher.


Looks more like cat food than people food.

This would be the opposite of a hyper-palatable addictive food. It has very little taste. The tuna is neutral. The tomato paste neutral. This meal doesn’t taste good. It doesn’t taste bad either. It is rather bland and boring. I’ve had this protein rice meal several times now and I am surprised just how full I get on this simple meal. It is now a staple of mine as I test food reward for myself.

The rice is optional. If you are trying to keep the carbs lower, you can remove the rice. I’ve also used Korean rice cakes in place of rice. Cold leftover rice is fine as it has more of neutral taste than fresh warm rice.

  • Tuna – The canned tuna I buy has 30 grams of protein. Protein helps suppress appetite. 140 calories.
  • Tomato Paste – Tomato paste is the espresso of tomatoes. Packed with nutrition.  138 calories.
  • Rice or Korean Rice Cakes – I have been using about 1 cup of cooked rice or the equivalent in rice cakes. 200 calories.

I’ve never had a meal of less than 500 calories suppress my appetite more than this. I’m not saying I am getting “loosen the belt buckle” full, but if I have this meal in the morning, I can go several hours without feeling hungry. Another benefit of the tuna + tomato paste combo is it requires no cooking time. Just open cans and mix. The rice is optional. Korean rice cakes cook fast, so having some around (in the freezer) is what I use when I don’t have leftover rice.

korean rice cake package

Korean rice cakes. If you live near a Korean grocery store get a few of these. They are awesome for soup too. 

My plan is to have this meal 5-7 times a week. If you try it, let me know your thoughts.


Your Fast and Easy Guide to Making Korean Soup

When I haven’t planned for a meal or don’t know what to make, I know I can always quickly make a few bowls of delicious Korean soup. All you need are some basic ingredients and then follow this guide. It should be noted that I am not Korean. I am from Ohio, yet I’ve had two different women both born in Korea tell me that I am more Korean than they are. Must be all that kimchi I’ve made. 🙂

This is a soup template. It is not meant to be complete. This is a starter guide.

#1 Warm up the Stock

The base for soup will likely be determined by two things. First is if you even have any stock on hand and second, what protein will be in the soup. Most of the time I make this soup, I just use water. However, I have used beef stock and fish stock. Beef stock is good for all meat and fish stock is good for all seafood.

  • Water
  • Beef Stock
  • Fish Stock

#2 Add Gochujang and Chopped Kimchi to Soup

Your aspiring Korean kitchen should always have kimchi and gochujang on hand. Gochujang is red chili paste. Add some paste to the soup. I add about 1 tablespoon per bowl. Sometime more. Different gochujangs have different spice levels, so you will need to dial in your ideal spice level. Chop up some kimchi and place that in the soup.

  • kimchi
  • gochujang

#3 Add Korean Rice Cakes

If you are unfamiliar with Korean cooking, you have probably never seen Korean rice cakes. Outside of Korean grocery stores or mail order, they are hard to find. There are many different types of Korean rice cakes, but for soup I like the ones shaped like discs. They behave in many ways like a pasta and add wonderful texture to soup. If you can’t source them, you have three options.

  • Korean rice cakes
  • Side dish of rice
  • More veggie. Seaweed and daikon are two ideas.
  • Make your own Korean rice cakes ahead of time. I’ve never done that, but here is a recipe.

I cook the rice cakes for 3-5 minutes. Check the package though, as there are different cakes that will have different cooking times.

korean rice cake package

korean rice cake

Rice cakes are sold fresh, packaged and frozen. Whatever cakes you don’t use right away can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. A better idea is to just freeze them. This is will prevent mold. 

#4 Add the Protein and Finish Cooking

I’ve made this soup many ways. Shrimp is my favorite. You can also use sliced tofu or SPAM. I tried canned tuna once and it was awful. Don’t do that.

  • Shrimp
  • Tofu
  • SPAM
  • fish (croaker is a popular choice)

Each of these options will only take a few minutes to cook. Taste test if you aren’t sure.

#5 Garnish and Serve

I love adding sliced green onions (scallions) when serving. For additional saltiness, add fish sauce. For additional spiciness, sriracha or additional gochujang works. That is all there is. You now have a simple template for quickly making Korean soup.

  • Green onions
  • fish sauce
  • Sriracha or additional gochujang

korean soup

Korean soup with Shrimp and kimchi


Vietnamese Chicken Congee in the Pressure Cooker

The dish I have been most obsessed with in the past few months has been Vietnamese Chicken Congee (Cháo Gà). The combination of black pepper and fresh herbs over a rice porridge is simple yet has amazing flavor.

Prior to getting a pressure cooker, I made the dish a few times using my rice cooker. It was good, but because the rice cooker works by steaming off the liquid, it wasn’t soupy enough. Too clumpy. Plus it took forever. The pressure cooker solved everything. Not only could I dial in my liquid level prior to cooking, but it was now cooking much faster.


I use the Fagor 8 quart pressure cooker.

Not Authentic, But Just as Good

I’m not Vietnamese and this is not an authentic recipe. My goal was to replicate this dish in a way that is easy to make and can be done quickly. My recipe is optimized to taste amazing with minimal time. Doing this over the stove without a pressure cooker can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours. With the pressure cooker, including prep time, it will take just 20 minutes.

  • Texture: The texture of the congee is personal preference. You can make it thick like oatmeal or soupy. I prefer it somewhere in the middle.
  • Chicken: Almost every recipe says to use a whole chicken. If you have one and feel like cutting it up and dealing with that, then go for it. I’ve discovered that thinly sliced chicken thighs are perfect. Chicken breasts were dry and distracted from the dish flavor, so don’t use just breasts.
  • Rice: Many recipes call for mixing two types of white together. I do this, but the important thing is to use short grain white rice. With congee the goal is to really break down the rice. When the rice breaks down, the starches in the grains thicken the dish.
  • Ginger: Required. I go overboard on ginger myself.
  • Garnish: Black pepper and fish sauce are must haves. For herbs, you can use cilantro, but for me nothing beats Thai basil. Slicked green onions is nice if you have them, but not necessary. For sweetness, most congee dishes add a pinch of cut up Chinese donuts. As someone who avoids both wheat and deep fried foods, I don’t add that ingredient. But if that is your thing, add away.

What I learned is the key to making good congee is that the rice required more cooking than the chicken. To make efficient use of my time, I begin cooking the rice before I start any of the other prep work.


My congee is heavy on the chicken and ginger. Use less if you like. This is a loose recipe, so use this as a starting point and then dial in your own customization.

  • 1.5 cups short grain rice. Jasmine and/or sushi rice. Use one or blend two.
  • 1 package of chicken thighs (~1 pound).
  • 1-3 inch ginger. Peeled, cut into very small or crushed pieces.
  • 2 cups of chicken stock.
  • black pepper
  • fish sauce
  • Thai basil (or cilantro or sliced green onions)

Step 0 – Soak the Rice (optional)

If you aren’t ready to start cooking yet and you have some time, throw the rice in a bowl of water or the pressure cooker itself. This will help the rice break down more. If you are ready to cook, skip this step.

Step 1 – Start Cooking the Rice

Put the rice in the pressure cooker, cover with water. Turn the flame to high. The water level should cover the rice by 1-2 inches. You aren’t using the pressure cooker as a pressure cooker yet. Leave the lid off and monitor. You don’t want all the water to boil off. If you need to add more water, do so.

While the rice is cooking, you’ll be preparing the other ingredients.

Step 2 – Prep Work

Peel and cut up the ginger. Slice up the chicken. Locate the chicken stock.

Step 3 – Cook the Congee in the Pressure Cooker

By this point, the rice should be boiling and cooking away. Add the ginger, chicken and chicken stock. Look at the liquid level and decide if this is the consistency you want for your congee. You can more water or chicken stock if you like. Close the pressure cooker and once pressurized cook for 10 minutes on High.

Turn off pressure cooker. Grab and bowl and serve.

Step 4 – Serve and Garnish

Add black pepper, fish sauce and the Thai basil. Enjoy!

chicken congee

Vietnamese Chicken Congee. This bowl also has sliced scallions (green onions). 

Once you’ve had congee, with the flavor mix of ginger, black pepper, fish sauce and Thai basil, I can’t imagine ever eating something as boring as oatmeal ever again. Congee is my favorite breakfast food, although I’ve had it for dinner as well. 10 minutes of prep work and 10 minutes of pressure cooking is all it takes to make this classic dish.


The Pressure Cooker is a Game Changer

Shortly after arriving in Seattle in 2007, I broke down and bought a good coffee grinder. After years of thinking my old grinder was good enough to grind fine and consistent for espresso, I spent the $350 for the Rancilio Rocky. I’m frugal, so the purchase was tough to make. I’m the guy who tries to squeeze every ounce of life out of something before replacing it. So even though I had the money to buy a nice grinder, I waited until my old grinder was on life support.

I still the recall that feeling I got when I pulled those first few shots. They were beautiful.  Thin rat tails of espresso poured out of the espresso machine. In a second I knew everything had changed. And in a second I knew I was a fool for wasting years with that old grinder. In one day, the quality of my espresso went up 10 fold. My education and appreciation of espresso went through the roof starting at that moment.

espresso rat tail

The Stream by Mark

Pressure Drop

Last week that same feeling hit me again. We got a pressure cooker for the house. I’ve been cooking with it every day. Sometimes twice a day. It is a game changer. Dishes that took hours are now done in minutes. Stock that took a day to make is now finished in one hour. I can bake potatoes faster in the pressure cooker than it takes to preheat the oven.

I’ve spent the last 6 years or so teaching myself cooking. And although I am proud of what I’ve learned, I now realize that learning curve would have been greatly accelerated had I purchased a pressure cooker years ago. When you reduce the cooking time by magnitudes, you cook more. When you cook more, you experiment more and you learn faster. Not to mention you eat better and save money.

After doing a bunch of research, we decided to go with the recommendation of America’s Test Kitchen. They preferred the Fagor 8-Quart Pressure Cooker over other models.

Fagor 8-Quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker with Steamer Basket
Fagor 8-Quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker with Steamer Basket

When I first considered getting a pressure cooker, I had safety concerns. What I learned is that the engineering of 2nd generation pressure cookers is far superior to the old models. The article New Valve System for Pressure Cookers details the differences between modern and old school pressure cookers. The short version is new pressure cookers are completely safe.

What about nutrient loss? The site hip pressure cooking has an article that makes the case more nutrients are retained when pressure cooking veggies over boiling, steaming or microwaving. And the article also explains why the high temperatures in the pressure cooker don’t create carcinogen compounds that occur with frying or grilling. Also, Dr. Stephan Guyenet of Whole Health Source, who is also a fan of Weston A. Price, loves his pressure cooker. Good enough for me.

My First Week of Pressure Cooking

Here is an overview of a few things I’ve made so far and how long it cooked once the pressure gauge popped up.

  • Chicken noodle soup (I use Korean rice cakes instead of wheat noodles) – 7 minutes
  • Beef stock – 60 minutes
  • Lamb stew w/ potatoes – 50 minutes (used to take 5-8 hours on slow cooker)
  • Spaghetti Squash – 12 minutes
  • Risotto – 8 minutes
  • Baked potatoes (halved)  – 9 minutes
  • Beets – 15 minutes
  • Pulled pork – 55 minutes (not a typo!!!)

Can you tell I’m excited? I feel like someone just added years to my life. I’ve spent the last week looking up ideas for the pressure cooker. Each time I see a recipe, my first reaction is disbelief that it could cook that fast, followed by excitement. And the quality of everything I’ve made so far has been as good and usually better than other cooking methods I’ve used. This is especially true for the beef stock. Super rich and gelatinous. No more babysitting a stock pot for 24 hours.

If you’ve been considering a pressure cooker but haven’t purchased one yet, all I can say it GET ONE!