Dango – Curiosities and Japanese Sweet Recipe

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Do you know the Japanese sweet called Dango? Ever heard of Dango Dai Kazoku? Want to learn how to do Dango? In this article we will see some curiosities and recipes about this Japanese sweet.

You probably heard about this sweet in some drama called Hana Yori Dango, or watching the famous sad anime called Clannad.

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

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

To understand some terms of this article, we recommend reading:

Dango - curiosities and Japanese sweet recipe

The history and Origin of Dango

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

Legend has it that Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339) came to worship at the shrine and took some water to purify his hands, until a big bubble appeared first and then four more bubbles.

He interpreted these bubbles as the human body, so four dumplings and a smaller one on top became a special offering at this shrine for purification purposes.

Dango - curiosities and Japanese sweet recipe

After offering them to the gods, people would take them home, shout a little over fire and add soy sauce for seasoning, then eat them in hopes of good luck.

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

It is said that the first traditional dango known as mitarashi dango was originally made at a tea house in Kyoto called Kamo Mitarashi, located near Shimogamo Shrine. 

Dango - curiosities and Japanese sweet recipe

Mitarashi Festival

Mitarashi, the name of the river, ended up becoming the name of the sauce used in traditional dango. A sticky golden sauce with a sweet and salty mix made from soy sauce, sugar, water and starch. 

The candy's name was inspired by the similarity of the dumplings to the bubbles made by the purifying water of the Mitarashi River. Water used to purify the person before accessing the shrine.

The Mitarashi Festival takes place in the summer at the Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto. In this festival, people walk in bubbling water that comes out of an underground stream in order to walk in front of the Inoue Shrine to make their offering.

Dango - curiosities and Japanese sweet recipe

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

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

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Dango

Different types of Dango

There are many types of dango that are generally named after the ingredients in them. We will list the main ones below and then a complete list with their ingredients.

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

Bocchan – It has three colors, red made from anko, yellow made from eggs and green made from green tea.

Hanami dango – This one also has 3 colors being served in spring during the cherry blossoms.

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

Dango - curiosities and Japanese sweet recipe
  • Anko dango – Commonly made with adzuki red bean paste;
  • Chadango – With green tea flavor;
  • Denpun Dango - From Hokkaido made from potatoes with azuki;
  • Chichi Dango - Slightly sweet, the father of dango;
  • Kibi Dango - Made of corn flour;
  • Kinako Dango - Made with roasted soy flour;
  • Kushi Dango – On the skewer;
  • Nikudango - Meatballs;
  • Teppanyaki Dango;
  • Sasa Dango - Wrapped in sasa leaves;
  • Sasa Dango Onna - Anko;
  • Sasa Dango Otoko - Kinpira;

Generally the name 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 candy and should be consumed within a day. The mochiko candies that we find in markets and convenience stores have a lot of sugar to make them last longer, a different taste than the original.

Dango - curiosities and Japanese sweet recipe

Hana Yori Dango - Japanese Proverb

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

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

More profoundly, the proverb says that we should value and value important things rather than appearance or futile things. Even the work we mentioned portrays these things well.

Dango - curiosities and Japanese sweet recipe

“Hana Yori Dango” is written as a critique for people who place too much importance on 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 from a poor family who, despite difficulties, managed to get into an elite school for rich people.

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

Dango - curiosities and Japanese sweet recipe

There are references to sweet dango in other anime. We will 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 visual called Clannad has several references to sweet dango. The protagonist Nagisa appears several times eating the candy and with a set of plush toys in the shape of candy.

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

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LetterTranslation
Dango 5x daikazoku (2x)
Yancha na yaki dango yasashii an dango
Sukoshi yumemigachi na tsukimi dango
Osumashi goma dango yotsu ko kushi dango
Minna minna awasete hyakunin kazoku
Akachan dango wa itsumo shiawase no naka de
Toshiyori dango wa me o hosometeru
Nakayoshi dango te o tsunagi ooki na marui wa ni naru yo
Machi o tsukuri dango boshi no ue minna de waraiau yo
Usagi mo sora de te o futte miteru dekkai otsuki-sama
Ureshii koto kanashii koto mo zenbu marumete
Nakayoshi dango te o tsunagi ooki na marui wa ni naru yo
Machi o tsukuri dango boshi no ue minna de waraiau yo
Usagi mo sora de te o futte miteru dekkai otsuki-sama
Ureshii koto kanashii koto mo zenbu marumete
Dango 6x daikazoku
Dango 5x daikazoku (3x)
Dango… the big dango family (2x)
An evil and disobedient dango, a sweet and gentle dango
The dango that sees the moon is a little dreamy
The perfect sesame dango, the four dango on the skewer
Everyone gets together and becomes a family of a hundred
A baby dango is always being lulled in happiness
An old dango looks with his narrow eyes
The dango friends will join hands and make a big circle
They will find a village on a dango planet and everyone will laugh together
Rabbits are waving from the big moon
Enjoy all things, happy and sad
The dango friends will join hands and make a big circle
They will find a village on a dango planet and everyone will laugh together
Rabbits are waving from the big moon
Enjoy all things, happy and sad
Dango 5x big dango family (3x)

I also created a little old flash game based on Clannad that you can play clicking here.

Dango Recipe – How to make Mochiko candy

If you want to cook your own dango, it's the easiest thing in the world! You just need:

Ingredients:

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

Preparing Dango:

  • 1. Mix plain rice flour with glutinous rice flour;
  • 2. Add the warm water gradually, always stirring the mixture. The dough must be soft, not being able to fall apart 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 to float, like gnocchi;
  • 5. Wait another 3 or 4 minutes and remove them with the help of a slotted spoon or sieve;
  • 6. Dip them in ice water to stop cooking;
  • 7. Stick 3 to 4 balls on a skewer;
Dango - Japanese sweet - curiosities and recipe

Mitarashi-dare - Dango Cover:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1. Mix all the ingredients in a pan;
  • 2. Cook until it forms a thick syrup, remembering that it hardens more as it cools;
  • 3. Cover the cooked dango;

You can use other toppings like kinako, adzuki beans or whatever you like;

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4 thoughts on “Dango – Curiosidades e Receita do Doce Japonês”

  1. Morei em takayama, e lá comi o melhor Dango da vida! Mas era salgado, assado como o queijo coalho aqui. Sinto muita saudade, pois nunca mais vi em outros lugares mesmo no Japão.

  2. I lived in takayama, and there I ate the best Dango of my life! But it was salty, roasted like curd cheese here. I miss it a lot, because I never saw it in other places, even in Japan.