Recreate a popular traditional Japanese dessert with these easy steps right in your own home! No need to go to a Japanese cafe to satisfy your dessert cravings for something authentic! This mochi based sweet wagashi (Japanese confection) is also healthy and hearty and makes a great in-between meal snack as well as a dessert. While it does require a couple of specialty ingredients, which you can get at an Asian store or online, this authentic Japanese food recipe is actually very easy to make. Ready? Let’s get started with some yummy mitarashi dango!
What is Mitarashi Dango?
The name of this traditional Japanese sweet originated from the “Mitarashi Festival” in Kyoto’s Shimogamo shrine. One legend says that when the emperor scooped up the water at the Mitarashi river in Shimogamo, four bubbles appeared in the river. People re-created those bubbles with mitarashi dango, which typically has four balls in one stick. There are also five ball mitarashi dango. According to another legend, mitarashi dango apparently represents the human body with the head being the top ball and the other four representing the arms and legs. Whatever the mitarashi dango actually represents, it is a delicious treat that is enjoyed at tea houses and bakeries across Japan and served at homes as both a dessert and for special occasions.
Dango for Special Occasions
Together with bento boxes and a variety of other Japanese sweets (wagashi), mitarashi dango is one of the top choices for cherry blossom viewing in Japan. This is an important Springtime holiday in Japanese culture and traditions. People enjoy a pilgrimage to view the lovely pink cherry blossoms in full view at this time. Because they are outside most of the day, visitors usually bring a picnic to eat under the cherry blossom trees. After the bento boxes full of sushi and tamagoyaki (Japanese omelets), it’s time to enjoy the mochi treats like mitarashi dango!
Mitarashi dango is also a traditional dish for full moon viewing. The Autumn moon, also called the Harvest moon, is a very special time of year for many Asian cultures. It falls in late September or early October usually. The actual viewing of the full moon as it rises is the most important part of this tradition. The tradition has been going on for thousands of years. People spread out a night time picnic for the Autumn full moon in order to watch this natural event with friends and family as a traditional celebration. Dango and bunny buns are the usual foods eaten at this time, and sometimes they are even given as offerings to the moon itself!
- Once mochi balls begin to float in the boiling water, take them out quickly. They are ready!
- Dango taste best right away, so make them just before the party or dinner!
- You can also make dango balls with tofu instead; here is how to do it! These have a special creamy texture and consistency that many people simply love!
- 2/3 cup Shiratama Powder
- 1/3 cup Water
- 4 Bamboo Sticks
- Plenty of Water, for boiling mochi
- Boil a lot of water.
- Add shiratama powder in a bowl, and mix, gradually adding water.
- Once it’s as soft as an earlobe, make 16 balls.
- Add the mochi into the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes.
- When the mochi balls start to float, remove from hot water and place them in cold water.
- Drain the water, and stick onto bamboo sticks (4 balls per stick)
- Carefully place mochi sticks in a toaster and toast them until slightly burnt on top.
- Mix together the ingredients of the syrup in a small pot.
- Heat over low heat until syrup is thick. Pour on top of mochi balls.