‘Dango‘ is a Japanese sweet dumpling made with mochi (rice flour). A popular dessert in Japan, there are exclusive stores that sell only dangos in a multitude of flavours and colors that change with the passing of each season. My first glimpse of these sweet little things came through my interest in Japanese Dramas – my favourite being Hana Yori Dango – where the heroine works in a dango store part-time after school.
Since then, I’ve wanted to sample these desperately, so when I found a recipe for it on Pickled Plum, I was thrilled. Not just because I could make dango for myself, but because it was so reminiscent of a South Indian breakfast/dessert that I grew up with – Kozhukattai – a rice flour dumpling usually filled with sweet or savory fillings. I jumped at the opportunity to fuse two cultures – and made this Coconut Kinako Dango.
Don’t you LOVE finding your native food in other cultures! It tickles me when I do! The Indian addition to this Japanese dessert is a traditional sweet coconut filling. As the dango cooks, the filling gets molten and gooey in the middle, and when you take a bite into it, this is what you get:
Hey! I’ve heard of Kinako!!!! I think…
If you read my earlier post on Mizu Shingen Mochi – The Japanese Water cake, you would know that Kinako is just Roasted Soybean flour. For those of us who’ve only had soy as milk or sauce, it is surprising to taste Kinako and find it to be ‘nutty’ – much like a peanut. You’ll find Kinako at your local Asian store in the flour/dango section. If you can’t find it, substitute with roasted peanut powder, and it’ll still taste awesome!
The dango comes together quite easily – just mix glutinous rice flour and water. A few seconds of kneading and you’ll see that it feels exactly like play-doh. If you don’t get carried away playing with it, you’ll be done with the dough in less than a minute!
Note: Glutinous rice flour is NOT the same as rice flour. You cannot directly substitute one for another without varied end products. I have not tested this recipe using regular rice flour, and have no insights into how that would be.
The filling is a simple mix of jaggery and coconut. For the Indian kozhukattai, we add a pinch of cardamom to this coconut filling. I wanted to keep the flavours simple and neat and skipped it. But if you want that exotic kick to this filling, go forth with a teeny tiny pinch of cardamom!
To make the filling, just cook coconut and jaggery in a saucepan for a couple of minutes to dry it out. Cool completely before attempting to fill the dango.
To fill and shape the dango, take a small piece of dough and flatten it in your palm. Place a small amount of filling in it and seal up the edges. Roll between both palms till it shapes into a ball. Simple huh? Just repeat that until you run out of dough and filling.
While you are shaping the dango, put a pot of water to boil, just like you’d do for pasta or noodles. Drop the shaped dango balls into the bubbling, boiling water and let it cook. They’re done when they all float up to the top and you can remove them with a slotted spoon.
See how raw vs cooked dango look – when cooked, the rice flour gets almost translucent, and you can vaguely see the filling showing through.
Transfer to a bowl of cold water – this prevents the dango from overcooking and from sticking to each other. Seriously, they’re like fly paper when cooked. They stick to each other and everything around them.
In the meantime, mix kinako and sugar in a bowl, and toss the cooled dango into the kinako mix. No more sticky-sticky!
This reheats very well after refrigeration. Microwave for about a minute to soften it up the next day. Personally, I like it cool.
How does it taste?
When you bite into it, it’s very soft, and you get a nutty whiff of the kinako – then you start chewing and it is very gummy – a little effort to the jaw but more fun than work. The stretchy dango is interspersed with the crunchy sweet coconut filling, making for a very interesting mouthful. You really can’t stop with one!
When you make these (which I really think you SHOULD!), be sure to SHARE YOUR PHOTOS with me through Facebook, Instagram (@loveisinmytummy) or Twitter (@loveisinmytummy). I’d love to see what you cook from here and will share it with pride on my social media feeds.