As I wandered the vibrant streets of Japan and strolled through the vibrant stalls, my eyes were drawn to skewers adorned with small, tempting balls. My friend said they were called dango, a traditional Japanese sweet. Intrigued, I couldn’t resist the allure and tried Mitarashi Dango —it was chewy, sweet, and simply delicious.
Easy Mitarashi Dango recipe
Dango is a traditional Japanese dumpling made from sweet rice flour. The dumplings are often skewered on sticks and served in groups of three to five. The texture of these Japanese sweet rice balls is typically chewy, and they have a slightly sweet flavor. You can eat this treat without or with various coatings and toppings, such as sweet soy sauce, anko (sweet red bean paste), or kinako (toasted soybean flour).
This treat is often called mochi on a stick. However, dango is not mochi, the base ingredients of these two are different. While exploring street food options, I tried two types of dango: Yaki and Mitarashi Dango. Between the two, I preferred the Mitarashi Dango, as the Yaki Dango is slightly burnt to me.
Mitarashi Dango is coated in a sweet soy sauce glaze. And here’s how to make these glazed dumplings on a stick:
Mitarashi Dango – Japanese balls on sticks
for the dumplings
- 1/2 cup joshinko non-glutinous rice flour
- 1/2 cup shiratamako glutinous rice flour
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 4 Bamboo skewers
for the sauce
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp mirin sweet rice wine
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- In a bowl, combine joshinko and shiratamako. Gradually add water to the flour mixture while stirring continuously.
- Once the mixture becomes crumbly, use your hands to gently knead and press the mixture together. Continue kneading until the dough starts to come together into a cohesive and slightly sticky ball. If the dough feels too dry, you can add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time, until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough.
- Divide the dough into 12 small portions and shape them into bite-sized balls.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Drop the rice balls into the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface. Once they’re floating, let them cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer them to a bowl of iced water. Allow them to cool for a moment, drain them, and put them in a tray. This step helps to cool down the dumplings quickly, giving them a chewy and firm texture.
- Thread 3 dumplings onto bamboo skewers.
- In a separate saucepan, combine soy sauce, sugar, mirin, cornstarch, and water. Mix them well until the mixture is smooth.
- Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring until the mitarashi sauce thickens slightly. Turn off the heat and remove the saucepan.
- Grill or broil the dango skewers until they develop a golden brown color. This step is optional.
- Drizzle the sauce over the dango skewers, making sure they are well-coated.
There are several variations of dango, each with its own distinctive characteristics and often linked to specific occasions or seasons.. Here are some popular types:
- Anko Dango: These dangos are coated in sweet red bean paste (anko). The combination of the chewy dumpling and the sweet, velvety anko creates a delightful contrast in both flavor and texture.
- Yomogi or Kusa Dango: mixed with Japanese mugwort and often coated with red bean paste.
- Hanami Dango: This colorful trio of dangos represents the changing seasons. The three colored dumplings are usually pink, white, and green. They are enjoyed during cherry blossom viewing (hanami) season and are a symbolic treat of spring.
- Kinako Dango: Originating from Okayama Prefecture, these dango are coated in a sweet soybean flour called kinako.
- Mitarashi Dango, with the recipe above, is glazed with a sweet soy sauce-based syrup.
- Tsukimi Dango is traditionally enjoyed during the moon-viewing festival, often served with sweet soy sauce and representing the full moon.
- Niku Dango: Dango with a savory twist, as it includes minced meat (usually pork) mixed into the rice flour dough.
- Cha Dango: This type is infused with green tea (matcha), giving it a delightful, earthy flavor.
- Kuri Dango: Dango mixed with sweet chestnut paste, providing a rich and autumnal flavor.
- Yaki Dango: These are skewered dangos that are grilled or toasted until they get a nice, golden-brown color. These “grilled mochi skewers” are often brushed with a sweet soy sauce glaze or sometimes dipped in other sweet sauces.