Dango

Dango (dahng-go) is a Japanese rice dessert/treat made of shiratamako, a kind of rice flour. It's eaten in several different ways, either as a topping on other desserts or skewered with various sauces on top (either sweet or salty) and sometimes even grilled a little. Dango is simple to make, pretty to look at and (to me) quite yummy.



I've been on an Asian desserts lately what with the pandan cake and mochi. Truthfully, I like to make things that are visually pleasing which would also explain the macaron obsession. There's something so pretty about Japanese food - they're all about the presentation from the sakura shaped garnishing to food shaped like goldfish or Hello Kitty head-shaped hard boiled eggs. The bonus for me when it comes to making these Asian treats is that I get to eat my version of comfort food. The textures, the flavors, it all reminds me of my childhood and dango is very much like what my grandmother used to make. I think I mentioned tang yuans in my mochi post.

Now, like mochi, the texture to dango is also glutinous but more chewy. It's not as translucent or Stretch Armstrong-y like mochi but it's the same idea. For true dango, a different variety of rice flour called shiratamako is used. According to my research you can also use glutinous rice flour or mochiko with some corn or potato starch added to get as close to the consistency of shiratamako as needed. Searches for shiratamako online yielded only glutinous rice flour results so that worked for me since that's all I had. HOWEVER, I didn't do as much research as needed and didn't use any potato/corn starch and got the dough everywhere. It was a sticky mess and the starch is there to keep the dough from sticking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Glutinous Rice Flour

  • 1 tablespoon corn/potato starch

  • 3/4 Water

  • Boil water in a small pot

  • Prepare an ice bath and keep at the ready


Mix and roll into a dough ball. Shape into a tube and pinch off about one inch pieces, much like you would when making some varieties of cookies. Using your palms, roll gently into balls. If you're skewering them, leave them as is and drop them into boiling water one by one. If you're using them as a topping press an indentation into the center (almost like gnocchi) and flatten a little before putting in boiling water to help the dough cook evenly. I kept these in a ball, obviously, since I skewered them.

When you put the dough in the boiling water, they will hit the bottom of the pot. Once they're cooked they'll float to the surface. Use a slotted spoon and put the floating pieces into the ice bath where they will sink again.

Confession: I didn't measure. I just carefully poured water into the flour and started kneading. And by kneading I meant combining the water and flour. When it comes to rice flour or anything glutinous you really can't knead, it's nothing like regular cookie dough it's sticky, clumpy and you really have to be patient and just work it. The corn starch would have helped, obviously but I managed without it. Would not recommend it.

NOTES:

I also did it based on what I remember my grandmother doing and worked to create a dough ball that doesn't stick too much to your hands but isn't too dry either. I learned that the best consistency that yielded a nice, chewy but not slimy (for lack of a better word) a ball was when I could press into the dough ball and it flattened with some cracks but no dry bits falling off. Another way to tell is when you roll/shape it into a long tube shape and suspend it, it won't keep stretching on its own. Like play-do, not silly putty.

One site I found said you want the consistency "tender as an earlobe." Weird huh?

Use them however you like, in syrups, over ice cream, skewered with a glaze over it or roll in crushed peanuts or almonds or even some brown sugar and cinnamon. The next time I make these I will boil them in a simple syrup. Nothing too thick though, I'll probably use 1:half water/sugar so there's some flavor in the dango. For the green dango I added a drop of pandan essence. Bear in mind if you're going to add food coloring it will affect the consistency of the dough so always have more water and flour on hand to add to get it right.

Have fun with it. Thankfully mochiko/glutinous rice flour is cheap. You can order it from Amazon here or you can make a trip to K&S for some. The last time I was there it was all gone and I realized it was probably because it was some Asian festival or something and we use rice flour in a lot of our food when it's, y'know, not rice.

Stay tuned, I (hopefully but more than likely) will have more fun and pretty (again, hopefully) things to share.