Friday, September 6, 2013

Mitarashi Dango 御手洗団子, Grilled Mochi Balls

Meow was considering making mochi waffles when I realized that I don't think I can buy pre-packaged cut mochi anywhere in the city, since most recipes I have come across just calls for that.  But a rare few recipes did speak of the mochi waffle (moffle) dough essentially being made from dango dough.  So, Meow has to learn to walk before she runs and today is dango day (to be honest, I proceeded to reserve some of the dango dough for moffles right after.

Dango (pron. DAHN-go), is really a basic form of mochi, but rolled into balls.  The Chinese have utilized this form for their soupy dessert, tong yuen 湯丸, they usually stuff it with some sort of filling similar to the daifuku mochi, but smaller and boiled.  The non-stuffed version and coated with syrup in Chinese is referred to as tong bat lat 糖不甩 and coated with sesame and/or peanuts. With the Japanese, it is often eaten as a snack with tea.

Essentially, dango is a mould-able mochi dough which is then cooked in a pot of boiling water.  This mitarashi variety means that it is grilled (yaki dango) and then coated in a sweetened soy sauce syrup.  It is often served in 3 to 4 balls on a skewer where skewered dango is referred to as kushi dango.

...So...yaki-mitarashi-kushi-dango?  Nah, I think the term mitarashi entails the grilled (yaki) and skewered (kushi) part.

The other challenge when making this dango business is encountering a million different versions of the mochi flour, rice flour, and water ratio.  I really depends on how chewy you want your mochi, more mochi flour = more chewy, is the basic theory.  And more water = softer mochi is also part of the theory.  So, that leaves a lot of room for experimentation, which sucks dango. There is also several different ways you can cook your mochi dough - microwave *shudder*, steaming, and boiling.

Since this resembles the Chinese tong yuen, it made sense to boil the dango.

Mitarashi Dango 御手洗団子
Adapted from Just One Cookbook

For Dango Dough
100 g Joshinko, rice flour
150 g Shiratamako or mochiko, sweet/glutinous rice flour
30 g sugar
150 mL warm water
12 Bamboo skewers

Sweet Soy Sauce Syrup
75 g granulated sugar (adjust sweetness to your liking)
15 mL soy sauce
15 mL mirin
60 mL water
10 g corn starch
15 mL water for dissolving corn starch

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil

2. In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients together

3. Slowly add water and knead the dough, add enough water so that it becomes soft, yet just firm enough for it to form balls.  "Soft like the earlobe" is how the Japanese describes dango dough

4. Take about 12 g of dough and roll it into ball form.  Repeat until all dough is used up

5. Carefully, drop the raw dango balls into the pot of boiling water.  It will sit and the bottom in the beginning, but when it's done, it will float to the top.  But remember to stir it a bit when it's at the bottom so it doesn't stick to the pot

6. While it's cooking, prepare a large bowl of ice cold water

7. When dango is floating, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl of ice water

8. Drain the water

9 (a). If you have a little charcoal grill, then skewer the dango 3-4 pieces and roast on the grill until a bit charred

From Just One Cookbook

9 (b). If no grill, then brush a little bit of oil on a frying pan, or just use a non-stick frying pan without oil and pan fry the dango until charred, then skewer 3-4 pieces

10. Cook the sauce by adding sugar, soy sauce, mirin, and water in a little pot and bring to boil

11. Take the corn starch and dissolve it in 15 mL of water and set aside

12. Add the corn starch liquid when the soy mixture has come to a boil

13. Turn heat down to medium to medium-high and stir until mixture has thickened

14. Remove from heat and using a pastry brush, generously brush the soy syrup onto the skewered dango

Yield: 11-12 skewers (~35 dango)

There are about a bajillion varieties of how to garnish and colour dango and serve them.  According to Wikipedia there are these varieties:
  • YangoDango: Commonly known as (sweetened) red bean paste, while ingredients other than azuki are used on rare occasions.
  • Chadango: Green-tea flavored Dango.
  • Bocchan dango: Dango that has three colors. One is colored by red beans, the second by eggs, and the third by green tea.
  • Denpun dango: Variety of dango from Hokkaidō made from potato flour and baked with sweet boiled beans
  • Kuri dango: Dango coated in chestnut paste
  • Chichi dango: Slightly sweet light treats usually eaten as a dessert.
  • Hanami dango: Also has three colors, Hanami dango is traditionally made during Sakura-viewing season. Hence the name Hanami(Hanami means "flower viewing"; hana meaning "flower", and mi meaning "to see").
  • Goma: sesame seeds. It is both sweet and salty.
  • Kibi dango: Dango made with millet flour. This variety is prominently featured in the tale of Momotaro, a folkloric Japanese hero, who offers them to three talking animals in exchange for their aid in fighting demons.
  • Kinako: A toasted soy flour.
  • Kushi dango: Dango held by a skewer
  • Mitarashi: Covered with a syrup made from shouyu (soy sauce), sugar and starch.
  • Nikudango A type of meatball.
  • Teppanyaki: Dango on a skewer with a tangy teppanyaki taste.
  • Sasa dango: Dango that is produced and eaten primarily in Niigata Prefecture. Sasa dango has two varieties: "Onna Dango" and "Otoko Dango." Onna Dango (literally "Female Dango") is filled with anko, while the otoko dango (literally "Male Dango") is filled with kinpira (burdock). The dango is wrapped in leaves of sasa for the purpose of preservation

When Mr. Meow came to check on me in the kitchen to see how I was doing with my moffles (which I had to back-peddle and figure out dango first) he saw a picture on the tablet of these grilled mochi and was all over it.  Needless to say, I gave him a fresh one and he quite liked the texture.  Even says the sauce is really good, tasty yet subtle.  But these are definitely good when warm, once cold, they're kinda blah.  The photographed ones had gotten cold after I was done with them, but I think microwaving it would have revived them.

Mochi overload Meow thinks, even though I also enjoy the salty sweetness of the sauce and the texture of the dango.  It does remind me of the Chinese version that Meow Mother used to make as a snack.  She made it very rarely, I remember sometimes I was nearly begging her to make, but glutinous rice flour was rather hard to find in this dinky town back in the day, or it requires a long trip out to Chinatown to acquire.


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