Mitarashi Dango is a chewy rice dumpling snack served on a skewer and drizzled with a delicious sweet soy sauce glaze. It tastes seriously good, it's fun to make and they're suitable for vegetarians too! Enjoy making and eating this traditional Japanese sweet at home!
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What is "dango"?
Dango are a type of sweet rice dumpling, usually served on a skewer. The dumplings are made from glutenous rice flour. Just like many Japanese desserts and snacks, they aren't overly sweet but they have a lovely "mochi mochi" chewy texture.
Dango are extremely popular in Japan and you can find them in most supermarkets. They taste a lot better if you buy them at a food stall during a festival though, or even better, freshly made at home!
Kinds of Dango
There are different kinds of dango, but here are the most famous ones.
- Mitarashi Dango (みたらし団子) simple plain rice dumplings that have been lightly charred and coated in a sweet soy glaze, then served on a skewer.
- Hanami Dango (花見団子) tri-colored rice dumplings (pink, white and green) served on a skewer and associated with cherry blossom viewing.
- Anko Dango (餡子団子) Rice dumplings served on a skewer and covered in red bean paste.
- Goma Dango (ごま団子) Chinese style deep fried rice dumpling covered in sesame seeds and filled with red bean paste.
- Shiratama Dango (白玉団子) Small rice dumplings usually served in desserts such as anmitsu (traditional dessert made of agar agar jelly, red bean and fruits) or kakigori (shaved ice).
- Tsukimi Dango (月見団子) A pyramid of 15 rice dumplings displayed during the Autumn full moon.
As this recipe is how to make mitarashi dango, let me tell you a little bit more about this ancient sweet.
Where it started
Mitarashi dango is a traditional dessert that dates back hundreds of years!
It is said that Mitarashi dango originates from Kyoto and was first made in a tea house called Kamo Mitarashi which is located near the Shimogamo Shrine. The dango was used as an offering at the shrine.
Mitarashi dango is traditionally made up of 5 dumplings (these days it's often made with 3) and there are a few stories behind why.
The meanings behind "Mitarashi Dango"
The first story says that mitarashi dango is named after the "Mitarashi River" that flows at the entrance of Shimogamo shrine. The story goes, an Emperor from the late Kamakura period scooped water from the Mitarashi river and as he did, one bubble floated to the surface. Four more bubbles joined onto the first and created a dango shape.
The other theory, and one I find quite entertaining, is that each dumpling on a dango represents a part of the body.
One head, two arms and two legs. If you take it to the shrine and pray to the gods, then bring it home, set it on fire, cover it in soy sauce and then eat it, it's supposed to protect you from evil.
It seems pretty thorough to me.
Despite dango being super easy to make, unfortunately you're gonna need a special ingredient. That is Japanese glutenous rice flour, shiratamako. I also used this flour to make my ichigo daifuku (strawberry mochi) recipe here.
Shiratamako is not like regular flour. It's made from Japanese glutenous short grain rice and looks like coarse granules that break down after you add moisture. When it's cooked, it has a lovely chewy, soft and stretchy texture. You can find it on Amazon here.
Dango is usually made with a mixture of shiratamako and joshinko. Joshinko is also made from glutenous short grain rice, but it's finely milled and helps to thicken recipes. The ratio is usually about 50/50 but I don't use joshinko in my recipe so you won't need it this time.
Dangoko is flour especially for making dango and is a mixture of shiratamako and joshinko (so you won't have to buy them seperately). The ratio varies and so does the texture of the dango you make with it, but it's a good option if you don't want to buy too many kinds of flour.
Mochiko is probably the easiest to get out of these ingredients and is often used as a substitute for shiratamako. I've tried this recipe with mochiko myself, I can say that it doesn't make a big difference, but the texture is a little firmer and not as chewy and soft as shiratamako.
You can find Mochiko on Amazon.
So in this recipe, I use silken tofu.
Silken tofu is very soft, but somehow it holds the shiratamako together perfectly. It doesn't affect the taste and the texture is soft and chewy. It also saves you from having to buy different kinds of flour.
Mitarashi Dango Sauce
Mitarashi dango is flavoured with a delicious soy based sauce. Here is what you'll need:
The ingredients are mixed together while they are still cold to stop the corn starch from clumping then warmed on a low heat to create a thick and glossy glaze.
It's thickens up very fast and becomes even thicker when it cools down so be careful not to cook it for too long.
Also, if you can't find mirin then it's okay to just add extra sugar as a substitute in this recipe.