Dango – Japanese Sweet – Curiosities and Recipe

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Do you know the Japanese sweet called Dango? You’ve probably heard of Dango in some Dorama that bears such a name or watching the Clannad Anime. In this article we will talk about this Japanese sweet.

Dango [団子] is a Japanese dumpling made of mochiko (rice flour). It is served on a skewer with 3 or 4 dangos, and is usually eaten along with green tea as a classic Japanese dessert.

Dango is available in many varieties, its texture is similar to mochi. The name Dango literally means a group of children, since it is a skewer with several balls forming a family.

Dango - Japanese Sweet - Curiosities and recipe

The history and origin of Dango

The Japanese eat dango since the Jomon period, many prepared from forest nuts, which they crushed to bloom and mixed with porridge to survive in winter.

Legend has it that Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) came to worship in the sanctuary and took out some water to purify his hands, until a large bubble emerged first and then four other bubbles.

He interpreted these bubbles as the human body, so four dumplings and a lower not
op became a special offer in this sanctuary for purification purposes.

Dango - Japanese Sweet - Curiosities and recipe

After offering them to the gods, people took them home, shouted a little bit about fire and added soy sauce to seasoning and eating them in the hope of good luck.

Since the Muromachi period, the dumplings have been placed on toothpicks in the 16th century, five dumplings w
ithout a stick were the rule. One representing the head, two arms and two legs. 

They say the first traditional dango known as mitarashi dango was originally made at a tea house in Kyoto called kamo Mitarashi, located near the Shrine of Shimogamo

Dango - Japanese Sweet - Curiosities and recipe

Festival Mitarashi

Mitarashi, the name of the river, eventually became the name of the sauce used in the traditional dango. A sticky golden sauce, with a mixture of sweet and salty flavor, made from the soy sauce, sugar, water and starch. 

The sweet name was inspired by the similarity of the dumplings with the bubbles made by the purifying water of the Mitarashi River. Water used to purify the person before accessing the sanctuary.

The Mitarashi Festival takes place in summer at shimogamo shrine in Kyoto. At this festival people roam in bubbly water that comes out of an underground stream in order to walk to the Inoue Shrine make their offering.

Dango - Japanese Sweet - Curiosities and recipe

During the Mitarashi festival at shimogamo Shrine, dango is the main offer for deities. These offerings usually come in 3 colors: white, red and green.

For 4 days thousands of Japanese walk through the icy water with their Yukata, drinking water for purification. Some claim that the black stones of the creek have a deterrent power for demons, especially tantrums in children.

Different types of Dango

There are many different types of dango that are usually named according to the ingredients present in them. Let’s list the main dango below and then a complete list of dango and its ingredients.

Mitarashi – The most popular type, commonly found in convenience stores and supermarkets. They are covered with a sweet and salty syrup made of soy sauce, sugar and starch.

Bocchan – It has three colors, red made of anko, yellow made with eggs and green made with green tea. Another one that has 3 colors is the Hanami dango served in spring during sakura blossoming.

Denpun – Variety of Hokkaido made of sweet potato flour and baked with beans. In addition to these flavors, there are dangos made entirely of anko (bean paste), green tea, soy derivatives, tenppanyaki, kinako and etc.

Dango - Japanese Sweet - Curiosities and recipe
  • Anko dango – Commonly made with azuki red bean paste;
  • Chadango – Dango with green tea flavor;
  • Denpun Dango – From Hokkaido made of potato with azuki;
  • Chichi Dango – Lightly sweet, the father of the dango;
  • Kibi Dango – Made of cornflour;
  • Kinako Dango – Made with roasted soy flour;
  • Kushi dango – Any Dango on a skewer;
  • Nikudango – Almondegas;
  • Teppanyaki Dango;
  • Sasa Dango – Wrapped in leaves of sasa;
  • Sasa Dango Onna – Anko;
  • Sasa Dango Otoko – Kinpira;

Generally Dango can refer to virtually anything round on a skewer, ball-shaped object; something round or lumps grouped together forming a family.

Dango is a very fragile sweet and should be consumed in a day. The dango we find in markets and convenience stores has a lot of sugar to make them last longer, a different taste from the original.

Dango - Japanese Sweet - Curiosities and recipe

Hana Yori Dango – Japanese Proverb

The dango is so popular that there is a proverb that says “hana yori dango” [花より男子] that can be literally translated as better dango than flowers. There’s even an anime, manga and dorama with that name.

This proverb is commonly understood as better sweets than flowers. It refers to the importance of practical or useful compared to aesthetics. That’s because dango is something very practical and easy to do.

In a deeper way the proverb says that we must cherish and value important things rather than appearance or futile things. Even the work we mentioned portrays these things well.

Dango - Sweet Japanese - curiosities and recipe

Hana Yori Dango is written as a critique for people who give a lot of importance to money, status and appearance. In addition to being a good romantic comedy, it shows a great contrast of values such as wealth x poverty and superb x humble.

The work written by Yoko Kamio and released in 1992 depicts a girl named Makino of a poor family who despite the difficulties managed to enter an elite school for wealthy people.

The story shows her involvement with the 4 most popular high school students named as Flower Flower or F4, directly referencing the flowers of hana yori dango.

Dango - Japanese Sweet - Curiosities and recipe

There are references of sweet dango in other animes. Let’s list them below:

 Ai yori Aoshi
 Kamisama hajimemashita
 Kamigami no Asobi
 Kore wa Zombie desu ka? 
 Brave 10 

Dango Daikazoku in Clannad

The anime and mobile look called Clannad has several references to sweet dango. The protagonist Nagisa appears several times eating dango and with a set of plush in dango format.

Even the closure and theme of the anime is a song that talks about dango forming a family. You can see below the music and lyrics of it. It’s a really cute song that makes fans scream: moe moe moe!

LyricsTranslation
Dango dango dango dango dango dango daikazoku
Dango dango dango dango dango daikazoku
Yancha na yaki dango yasashii an dango
Sukoshi yumemigachi na tsukimi dango
Osumashi goma dango yotsugo kushi dango
Minna minna awasete hyaku nin kazoku
Akachan dango ha itsumo shiawase no naka de
Toshiyori dango ha me wo hosometeru
Nakayoshi dango te wo tsunagi ookina marui wa ni naru yo
Machi wo tsukuri dango boshi no ue minna de waraiau yo
Usagi mo sora de te wo futtemiteru dekkai otsukisama
Ureshii koto kanashii koto mo zenbu marumete
Nakayoshi dango te wo tsunagi ookina marui wa ni naru yo
Machi wo tsukuri dango boshi no ue minna de waraiau yo
Usagi mo sora de te wo futtemiteru dekkai otsukisama
Ureshii koto kanashii koto mo zenbu marumete
Dango dango dango dango dango dango daikazoku
Dango dango dango dango dango daikazoku
The big dumpling family
The big dumpling family
The mischievous roasted dumpling, the gentle bean jam dumpling
The moon viewing dumpling is a bit of a dreamer
The sesame dumpling always looks prim, the quadruplet spitted dumplings
Put all of them together to make a family of one hundred
The baby dumpling is always in the midst of happiness
The old dumpling narrows his eyes
The friendly dumplings all hold hands and create a big round ring
They laugh together while making towns on the dumpling star
The rabbits wave from the big moon in the sky
It takes all the happy and sad things and rounds them up (X2)
The big dumpling family
The big dumpling family

I also created an old flash game based on Clannad and dango that you can play by clicking here.

Dango Recipe – How to Do

If you want to cook the dango itself, know that it is the easiest thing in the world! You just need to:

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup joshinko or ordinary rice flour;
  • 2/3 cup shiratamako or glutinous rice flour (mochiko) plus a spoonful of cornstarch;
  • 1/2 cup warm water;

Preparing dango:

  • 1. Mix the common rice flour with the glutinous rice flour.
  • 2. Place the warm water gradually, always stirring the mixture. The dough should be soft and cannot break with excess water.
  • 3. Make small spheres the size of about 4 cm in diameter.
  • 4. Cook them in boiling water. With cooking they start floating, like gnocchi.
  • 5. Wait another 3 or 4 minutes and remove them with the help of a skimming or sieve.
  • 6. Soak them in cold water to stop cooking.
  • 7. Espete of 3 to 4 balls on a skewer.
Dango - Japanese Sweet - Curiosities and recipe

Mitarashi-dare – Dango Coverage:

  • 2 tablespoons (soup) of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (soup) of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (soup) of mirin
  • 4 tablespoons (soup) of water
  • 1/2 tablespoon (soup) of cornstarch
  • 1. Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan.
  • 2. Cook until you form a thick syrup, remembering that it hardens longer as it cools.
  • 3. Cover the cooked dangos.

You can use other toppings such as kinako, azuki beans or whatever you want;

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