The Japanese celebrate the mid-autumn festival by displaying Tuskimi Dango, white plain rice dumplings in the pyramid arrangement. It’s very easy to put together so you can celebrate this festival with us!
In mid-autumn, under the full moon, the Japanese celebrate the harvest and marvel at the passing of seasons, and this festival is called Tsukimi (お月見) – Mid-Autumn Festival (Chushu no Meigetsu 中秋の名月).
On this day, we display Tsukimi Dango (月見団子) by stacking fifteen rice dumplings in a special pyramid arrangement on a tray. Today I’ll show you how to make dango and arrange them for the display.
First, Let’s Make Dango
It’s really easy to make dango, and I talked in details about the type of flours available to make dango in this post. Unlike typical dango which is served in a bamboo skewer, Tsukimi Dango is plain rice dumplings. It’s much simpler and easier!
You will need 15 rice dumplings for the display for Tsukimi festival. And my recipe will make between 16-17 equal-sized dumplings.
To represent the full moon, I make yellow dango to put on top of the pyramid. The yellow color comes from kabocha squash, which is in season between the late summer to fall. You can use other types of squash, but kabocha is bright orange in color that is perfect to mix in with the dough. You will only need a small amount as you make just two balls.
How to Arrange Tsukimi Dango
I used a black plate so that the white dango will stand out more, but if you do not have a black plate, you can use a darker tray or any other color that looks great for the display.
You will put 9 balls on the bottom of the pyramid arrangement, placing 3 x 3. Then for the second layer, you put 4 balls (2 x 2), followed by the 2 yellow balls on top.
Tsukimi Dango can be displayed along with decorations such as pampas grass (susuki), bush clover (hagi), and autumnal flowers near windows from which the moon can be seen.
Rabbits are also associated with this festival as the Japanese believe that they inhabit the moon. So Mr. JOC also folded an origami rabbit for me following this YouTube video tutorial. 🙂
Hope you enjoy this holiday with your family and friends! Happy Otsukimi!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
- 3 ½ oz dangoko (Japanese rice dumpling flour) (plus more, just in case; you can't find this ingredient? See the notes below)
- ⅔ cup water
- 1 slice kabocha (squash/pumpkin) (you will need 2 tsp mashed kabocha)
- Gather all the ingredients. Kabocha is very hard to cut. If you have trouble, see my tutorial on How to Cut Kabocha Squash. Bring a big pot of water to boil dango on low heat.
To Prepare Kabocha Squash
- Steam a thin slice of Kabocha squash for 13-15 minutes (depending on thickness, cooking time varies).
- When a skewer can go through, it’s done. Transfer to a plate or tray. With a spoon, scrape off the flesh. You will need 2 tsp mashed kabocha and set aside.
To Make Dango
- Add dangoko in a bowl. Stir in water a little bit 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 dangoko starts to stick together and eventually it becomes clumps.
- Using your hand, 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. Each ball should be 20 grams. You may have some extra dough, but that’s okay.
- To make 2 yellow balls, prepare 30 gram of dough and mix in 2 tsp mashed kabocha.
- Combine the kabocha and dough really well. Depending on kabocha, it may contain more moisture. If the dough gets too wet, mix in more Dangoko so the dough will be firmer and easy to make into a ball. If the yellow color is not strong, you can add more mashed kabocha, but you also need to add in more flour to firm up.
- You will need 40 grams of yellow dough, and divide into two 20 gram yellow balls, just like the rest of white balls.
- 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 15 white balls and 2 yellow balls.
- Once the water in the pot is boiling, gently drop in each ball 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.
- Dango will stay on the bottom first but once they are cooked, they will float. Then cook an additional 1-2 minute. Transfer them into iced water.
- Once the dango is cooled, drain well and transfer to a tray (if you wet the tray, the dumplings won’t stick).
- In the boiling water, add the yellow balls. Once floating, transfer to iced water to let cool. Drain and transfer to the tray.
To Arrange Tsukimi Dango
- Place 15 dango into a pyramid shape on a plate or tray. From bottom to top, you put 9, 4, and 2 balls.
To Eat Tsukimi Dango
- After displaying Tsukimi Dango for hours or a day, the dumplings may have become hard to eat. Then you can cut and toast it in the oven toaster or frying pan. Then coat the dango with sweet soy glaze (mitarashi sauce) following this recipe.
- 100 g Joshinko (Japanese rice flour) (3 ½ oz)
- 100 g Shiratamako (glutinous rice flour/sweet rice flour) (3 ½ oz)
- 150-160 ml warm water (roughly ⅔ cup) (Joshinko requires warm water)