Mitarashi Dango is a traditional Japanese rice dumpling smothered in an irresistibly sweet soy glaze. The dumplings are skewered on a bamboo stick and enjoyed all year round. Make this street snack right in your own kitchen!
Mitarashi Dango (みたらし団子) is a type of dango, sweet rice dumplings, skewered onto a bamboo stick. Typically, there are three to five dumplings (traditionally five) on a skewer and covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze.
What I like about Mitarashi Dango is its contrasting textures and flavors. The chewy dumplings are mildly sweet and they get a hint of char from grilling. When we brush over the glaze, each bite is gooey, savory, and satisfying without being overly sweet. They make a fun, delicious snack to go with a hot cup of green tea.
Origin of Mitarashi Dango
Mitarashi Dango was originated from the Kamo Mitarashi Tea House in Kyoto. The dango was thought to be made as an offering for gods and the name was given after the bubbles of the mitarashi (御手洗) (font of purifying water placed at the entrance of a shrine) of a famous shrine in the city. The street vendors in Kyoto started selling dango as a snack and became popular amongst many visitors. Today you can find Mitarashi Dango being sold at supermarkets, convenience stores and specialty sweet shops everywhere in Japan.
Types of Rice Flour We Use for Mitarashi Dango
To achieve the perfect texture for the dumplings, you want to use the following two types of rice flours:
- Johshinko (上新粉) – a flour made from Japanese short-grain rice (uruchimai うるち米).
- Shiratamako (白玉粉) – a flour made from Japanese short-grain glutinous rice (mochigome もち米).
My recommendation is equal proportion: 50-50 ratio for both flours. The combination will give you the bouncy, chewy but not too sticky texture. If you like the chewy mochi-like texture, you can decrease Joshinko to 40% and increase Shiratamako to 60%. When you increase Shitamako too much, the dango gets too soft, and it becomes more like Shiratama Dango texture. Dango needs to be a bit firmer than Shiratama Dango.
At a Japanese grocery store, you may find the third type of flour called Dangoko (団子粉). This is a combination of rice flour and glutinous rice flour and the ratio is unknown; up to the manufacturer. If you have trouble finding the first two types of rice flour, this third one is an option. However, in my opinion, the texture is firmer, which I assume it’s the result of mixing more rice flour than glutinous rice flour.
The Mochiko (餅粉) is the fourth type of flour, made of glutinous rice flour similar to Shiratamako, but it’s produced differently. It yields a very soft and tender texture, which is not suitable for Dango.
You can find these flours at your local Japanese grocery store or maybe on Amazon.
Traditional Japanese Sweets to Enjoy At Home
I hope you have fun making these traditional sweets of Japan. If you like sweet red bean paste (anko), you can put your homemade anko on top of the dango to enjoy too!
Hungry for more? Check out these recipes:
For the Dumplings Using Joshinko and Shiratamako
- ⅔ cup joshinko (Japanese rice flour) (see Notes)
- ¾ cup shiratamako (glutinous rice flour/sweet rice flour) (see Notes)
- ⅔ cup warm water (joshinko requires warm water; measure ⅔ cup and remove 2 tsp to be precise)
For the Dumplings Using Dangoko
- 7 oz dangoko (Japanese rice dumpling flour) (see Notes)
- ⅔ cup water (measure ⅔ cup and remove 2-4 tsp to be precise)
- Gather all the ingredients. Joshinko and shiratamako are pictured on the left and dangoko is pictured on the right. Whichever you decide to use, the instructions below are the same.
- Gather the ingredients for the sweet soy glaze. Soak the skewers in water. You can start boiling a large pot of water on low heat (see Step 8).
To Make the Rice Dumplings
- Combine the shiratamako and joshinko in a bowl (or add just dangoko in a bowl).
- Stir in the warm water (or the cold water for the dangoko) a little bit at a time while mixing with chopsticks. Please note: It is possible that you may need less or more water depending on the climate where you live. I live in a dry climate, so I may use more water than you.
- The flours will start to stick together and eventually form clumps. Using your hands, combine the dough into one ball.
- Knead until the dough becomes smooth. The texture is like squeezing an "earlobe" (that’s how we describe the tenderness of this type of mochi in Japanese).
- Form the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
- Then divide each piece into 2 smaller pieces. You will have 16 equal-sized pieces of dough. I always like to weigh mine. Each ball should be 20 grams. You may have some extra dough, but that’s okay.
- Shape each of the dough pieces into a smooth, round ball. If the dough is cracking or has some wrinkles, dip the tip of your finger in water and apply a small amount of water to the cracked area to smooth it out. You now have 16 equal-sized dumplings.
- Just before cooking the dumplings, prepare a bowl of iced water. Once the water in the pot is boiling, gently drop each dumpling into the pot with a smooth, continuous arm motion. We want to cook them all at once, while keeping their round shapes. Stir the balls occasionally so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
- The dumplings will stay near the bottom of the pot at first, but they will float once they are cooked. When they rise to the top, boil them for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer the dumplings to the bowl of iced water.
- Once the dumplings have cooled, drain them well and transfer them to a tray. Tip: Wet the tray so the dumplings don't stick.
- Skewer three pieces onto a bamboo skewer. Continue with the rest of the dumplings and set aside.
To Make the Sweet Soy Glaze
- Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan without turning on the heat.
- The potato starch/cornstarch will become lumpy if you heat the sauce without stirring it beforehand, so mix all the ingredients together first. Then, turn on the heat and continue to whisk.
- Keep whisking continuously, as the mixture can become thick suddenly.
- When the sauce becomes thick, remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the sauce to a container or bowl. If you are making this sauce ahead of time, remove it from the heat before the consistency gets too thick because the moisture will evaporate and thicken the sauce as it cools.
- Optional: If you have a kitchen torch, you can give the Mitarashi Dango a little bit of char for a grilled taste. You can also grill them over direct heat (if you are going to place them on a wire rack, grease it first, as the dumplings tend to stick). You can use a broiler to char the dumplings or use a nonstick frying pan to pan-fry the surface of the dango.
- Pour the sweet soy glaze on top and serve immediately.
- Option 1: After you form the dough into round dumplings, you can store the uncooked dumplings in a single layer in an airtight container and freeze up to a month. When you use them, boil the frozen dango without defrosting.
- Option 2: After boiling and cooling the dumplings, pat them dry and pack them so they don't touch each other into an airtight container. Freeze for up to a month. When you use them, microwave or boil until they are warm.