Shiratama Dango Mochi Balls
Dango is basically a mochi ball made of rice flour and water. It’s a popular snack food in Japan, where on almost every street there is a vendor selling dango, usually grilled and flavored with sweet soy sauce. (I’m exaggerating, but there are a lot of dango vendors). My personal favorite is dango with sweet soy sauce and I like to eat them as an afternoon snack. I confess, I usually buy dango at the Japanese store already made, but lately I thought about trying to make them myself. After several failed attempts, my dango finally had the chewy and smooth interior that I was after.
Two kinds of rice flours are used to make dango: uruchi (regular white rice) and mochi (glutinous rice), and a good ratio is to use twice as much uruchi as mochi flour. The rice flour I used was a mixture of these two types of rice.
Plain dango is rather bland, so it’s common to top it with sweet soy sauce, sweetened kinako (soybean flour), and anko (red bean paste).
Shiratama Dango Mochi Balls
Makes 12-15 dango
2 ¼ cups rice flour (mixture of white rice and glutinous rice flour) or 250 grams
¾ cups hot water (200 ml)
Extra rice flour for kneading
1. Add the hot water to the rice flour a little at a time, stirring with a spoon. The mixture will seem very dry, but keep stirring until you reach a dough-like consistency that is similar to bread dough. You might need little less water than called for; just be careful not to make the dough too wet. Or, you can keep some extra rice flour on hand if this happens. When you have dough that is uniform, you are ready to knead. Lightly dust your hands and work surface with rice flour. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead the dough, by gently folding one end over the other and pushing it down with the palm of your hand. Keep folding and pushing down the dough for 2 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic (like the texture of an ear lobe). Roll the dough into a log, about 12 inches long and cut it into 1-inch pieces. You will have about a dozen pieces. Roll each piece into a ball-shape. This is your dango.
2. Boil water and place a steamer basket on top. Line the bottom of the basket with parchment paper and place the dango inside the basket. Place the dango at least 1 inch away from one another as they will get bigger during cooking and you don’t want them to stick together. Steam the dango for 15 minutes with the steamer basket covered.
3. Remove the dango carefully from the steamer and put it on another piece of parchment paper. If you are coating the dango with kinako sugar, do so immediately after steaming, so the kinako will stick. If you are flavoring it with sweet soy sauce, pour it on top of the dango or coat the whole thing with sauce. If you have anko bean paste, you can place a generous mound of anko paste on top of the dango.
Another way to eat dango is to fill it with anko bean paste. To do this, flatten the dango into a circle and place a small amount of anko in the middle. Wrap the dango around the anko to cover it completely. To make anko bean paste, see the ohagi recipe.
Dango is best eaten the day it is made. If you refrigerate it, the dango will get hard and it will no longer have a chewy consistency.
Possible Toppings for Dango
Sweet Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon potato starch, as a thickener
Heat the soy sauce and sugar in a saucepan. Add the potato starch and mix it in. Bring it to a boil; turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture thicken.
Sweet Kinako Flour
1 tablespoon kinako flour (soybean flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
Mix the kinako flour and sugar together in a bowl.
Anko Red Bean Paste
2 tablespoons smooth anko paste
Cook adzuki beans in water until soft, add sugar to sweeten. Cook until very thick and mash the beans. To make a smooth paste, press the beans through a sieve. See the ohagi recipe for directions on how to make anko paste.