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Recipe: Dango with a Tangy Sauce

August 4, 2009

Eeegads! A brief history on dango and the effect it has had on my life. Mikey and I have been avid anime watchers for years, and it’s only been in the more recent years that they’ve started to affect our menu and tastes. The better I got in the kitchen, the more adventurous we became, and the more interesting our food became – particularly when it comes to Asian food we cook. So it’s only natural that when we watched Samurai Champloo and saw this –

Fuu - the girl on the right is eating dango
Fuu – the girl on the right – is eating dango

my life changed forever. Or at least my mind life. Or more accurately, my tastebuds mind life…. yeah. I have spent the better part of 2 years trying to amass enough dango knowledge to work out a technique and understand the vague meaning of “feels like an earlobe”. Dango is a Japanese snack in the family of wagashi, and “earlobe” is used in many recipes to describe the texture during mixing. I failed miserably each time.

Then, during Japanese festival in Houston earlier this year, I was blessed with chance to actually taste dango. Not just dream about it… taste it. Heaven. Chewy and mild, the sauces were what really hit the spot – a salty seaweed moosh, sweet redbean paste, and a tangy-vinegary sauce. ::dribbling just thinking about it::

I still shelved making dango myself because of how terribly I’d failed at it previously. It wasn’t until Faye looked at me with her big blue eyes and said that she wanted to go to Japan to meet Pikachu that I decided to try one more time.

I don’t know what it was! The time I waited? The anticipation of the wait? The pages and pages of websites I’d visited pouring over dango techniques? The zen understanding of my not-Japanese-but-still-Asian roots suddenly clicking into overdrive? but “texture of an earlobe” suddenly made sense! The rice flour married gently with the slow addition of water to create something dense, yet subtle, crumbly, but moist! Eureka! We now have a new favorite snack; which we made last night at midnight after a long walk.

Faye devouring a midnight snack of dango
Faye devouring a midnight snack of dango

So here it is. I present you with… dango. Mitarashi is the type closest to what I make. The soy sauce used will make a difference. We buy Kikkoman Organic Soy Sauce from the Asian market.

Dango with Tangy Sweet Sauce
Dango with Tangy Sweet Sauce

Dango in a Tangy-Sweet Sauce
Serves: 20 balls (5 servings)

3/4 cup glutinous rice flour
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
6-7 Tbsp water

3 Tbsp kotterin mirin
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp cornstarch

1. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the rice flour and tapioca starch. Tablespoon by tablespoon, work in the water. Work it in really well between additions, it will sail right past perfect if you aren’t careful! When you pinch it and it feels like a slightly tacky earlobe and just retains the shape of the pinch, it’s ready.

Dango - ex 2
Dango – ex 1

Roll a heaping teaspoon of the dough into a ball shape about the diameter of a quarter. Set aside on a clean surface and shape the rest. Drop into the boiling water and stir once to make sure none stick to the bottom. After they float to the top continue boiling for 8 minutes, stir occasionally. Start the sauce.

Dango - ex 2

Dango - ex 2

2. Make a slurry of the water and cornstarch. In a small saucepan, bring the mirin, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar to a light boil over medium-high heat stirring occasionally. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and remove the pan from the heat. Stir until the sauce goes from cloudy to clear again and thickens.

Dango - ex 3

Dango - ex 3

3. After the dango is done boiling, move the balls into a bowl of cold water. Immediately remove and place in a bowl or string on skewers. Drizzle the sauce over top and serve.

Dango - ex 4

Dango - ex 4


  1. August 31, 2009 3:36 pm

    This is awesome! The first time I’ve seen anime inspired dish! Samarai Champloo is a great one since they’re always starving and searching for food..

    • August 31, 2009 11:11 pm

      My inspiration for the part of my life spent in front of the table is Fuu…. I almost choked when she lost the eating contest to the foreign dignitary. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

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