Dango  (団子)



Since I’ve been living in Japan, I’ve had the chance to try different Japanese sweets, but none of them have pleased me as much as dango, being one of the most popular throughout Japan.
Dango is a traditional Japanese dumpling made from two types of rice flour: Joshinko (made from Japanese short-grain rice) and Shiratamako (made from short-grain glutinous rice). Three to five round dango are often served on a skewer, called kushi-dango (串団子); plus it can be eaten throughout the year, although some of them are traditionally eaten on certain seasons.

Where was the first dango made?

The origin of the modern dango is said to be in a tea house in Kyoto, which is found (even now) near the Shimogamo Shrine ; made as an offering for gods. Its shape resembles the bubbles that come from the purifying water (Mitarashi; 御手洗), placed at the entrance of this shrine; thus receiving its name.

Hanami dango

In the past, it was prepared during hanami or “flower viewing”; however, nowadays it can be eaten at any time of the year. Although there are different theories about the meaning of its colors, the most popular says that it represents the colors of cherry trees.

Anko dango

It is topped with red bean paste (azuki) sauce. The anko adds just the right amount of sweetness and flavor to the chewy dango, creating a traditional Japanese dessert with a delightful texture and flavor.

Mitarashi dango

It is the original dango and the most popular among all the dango. After grilling, it is coated with a sweet soy sauce glaze, becoming a pleasant blend of sweet and savory flavors along with the texture of grilled dango.

Tsukimi dango

As its own name says, it is eaten during the tsukimi or the “moon-viewing festival” (月見), when the Japanese traditionally commemorate the autumn moon. The balls of this dango are white, in reference to the color of the moon, and are placed without a skewer on a plate forming a pyramid. 

Let’s eat dango!

As I said before, dango can be eaten all year long, and you can find it everywhere – you can even buy it at the supermarket! It can turn a simple moment into a good memory. I still remember when I went to Takao with my friends. On our way to the top of the mount, we found a mitarashi dango stall, and obviously,  we couldn’t help but buy a few. Its sweetness gave us strength and motivation to continue with the hike, even though we were tired.

Mitarashi dango on Mount Takao

That’s why I encourage you to try different types of dango in this beautiful winter season. Will it be able to turn this cold winter into a warm memory? Well, I guess the best way to figure it out is eaten dango. Shall we?