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 are 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:
- Tsukimi Dango
- Green Tea Mochi
- How to Make Mochi with a Stand Mixer
- Strawberry Mochi (Ichigo Daifuku)
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
If you’re using Joshinko & 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)
If you’re 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 on the left and Dangoko on the right. Whichever you decide to use, the instructions below are the same.
- Gather 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 Dango (Rice Dumplings)
- Combine Shiratamako and Joshinko in a bowl (or add just Dangoko in a bowl).
- Stir in warm water (or cold water for 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 where you live. I live in a dry climate, so I may use more water than you.
- The flours start to stick together and eventually it becomes clumps. Using your hands, combine into one ball.
- Knead until the dough becomes smooth. The texture is like squeezing an "earlobe" (that’s how we describe the tenderness for this type of mochi in Japanese).
- Make the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces.
- Then divide each piece into 2 balls. You will have 16 equal-sized balls. I always like to measure mine. Each ball should be 20 grams. You may have some extra dough, but that’s okay.
- Shape into a nice smooth round ball. If the dough is cracking or has some wrinkle, tap your finger in water and apply the small amount of water on the cracked area to smooth out. I have 16 equal-sized balls.
- Once the water in the pot is boiling, gently drop in each dumpling into the pot with a continuous motion. We want to cook them all at once, but also keeping them in good shapes. Stir the balls occasionally so they don’t stick on the bottom of the pot.
- Dumplings will stay on the bottom first but once they are cooked, they will float. Then cook an additional 1-2 minute.
- Transfer the dumplings into iced water.
- Once the dumplings are cooled, drain well and transfer to a tray (if you wet the tray, the dumplings won’t stick).
- Skewer three pieces into a bamboo skewer. Continue the rest of the balls and set aside.
To Make Sweet Soy Glaze
- Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan without turning on the heat.
- Potato starch/cornstarch will become lumps once you add the heat to it, so mix all together first. Then turn on the heat and continue to whisk.
- Keep whisking 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 earlier while the consistency is still not too thick because the moisture will evaporate and thicken as it cools.
- [Optional] If you have a kitchen torch, you can give them a little bit of char for taste. You can also grill over the direct heat (If you are going to place on a wire rack, dumplings tend to stick, so grease it). You can use a broiler to give a char or use a non-stick frying pan to pan fry the surface of dango.
- Pour the sweet soy glaze on top and serve immediately.
- Option 1: After you form the dough into round dumplings, you put 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 down, pat dry and pack into an airtight container without sticking to each other and freeze up to a month. When you use them, microwave or boil till they are warm.