Hanami Dango from Katanagatari
Confession time. I, unlike Shichika, am no master in the art of anything, least of all dango-making. It turns out that dango is HARD to make. It seems so deceptively simple! There are very few ingredients, the cooking method simply requires you to place dumplings in boiling water, and there are no sauces or extras you need to complete the dish. It should be foolproof! Well, call me a fool because I don’t really think I mastered it.
Let’s first talk about this show. I finished it awhile ago with my best friend, Sarah, and I loved it! I like the art, I like the story, I LOVE Shichika and Togame. I could go on. But why should I? The ending was a blow to my heart, a punch in the stomach, a heartless, if necessary, final act. I liked the ending, but I felt severe loss nonetheless. Did anyone else feel this way? Also why is Shichika constantly sporting the WEED on his clothes? (Just kidding, I know it’s a maple leaf. But you have to admit…it looks suspicious.)
Anyway, my best friend just left me to go study abroad in Spain, and so I thought I should make a commemorative dish this week to celebrate her departure (And mourn her loss. Goodbye forever, Sarah. *single tear* See you in Korea.). I wanted the dish to be simple, and hanami dango match the season. In the episodes, you see Togame and Shichika eat them in episode 4, and then they’re eaten again in the last episode. They’re traditionally sakura flower viewing food (so spring time food), and it’s spring now so I thought it would be appropriate. Sadly, I learned that there’s a lot I don’t know about making dango. Learn from my mistakes.
1 cup Mochiko flour, separated into thirds*
1/2 cup cornstarch, separated into thirds
1 cup sugar, separated into thirds
About 1/8 cup water per bowl
1 tsp matcha green tea powder
red food dye
*I used Mochiko flour because I couldn’t find Joshinko, a kind of rice flour I HIGHLY recommend obtaining. I used straight Mochiko and wasn’t happy with the result, but if you can find Joshinko flour, use half that, half Mochiko flour for a better overall texture and for ease of use. Mochiko is glutinous rice flour, Joshinko is non-glutinous and specially prepared rice flour. Joshinko produces firmer, bouncier dango, mochiko produces gummy, more mochi like dango. I wish I had been able to find Joshinko flour, because I wasn’t happy with the final result.
Put your flour, cornstarch, and sugar in three separate bowls. These will be for the three different colors. Lightly stir all ingredients together.
Pour in the TINIEST amount of liquid to one bowl. Don’t pour water evenly and then stir everything together. I ruined my first batch that way. Pour a little water into the bowl, no more than a splash, and mix through with a fork. You’ll start to get crumbs. When you start getting a ball of dough in the middle, but with crumbs still around it, stop, and move on to the next bowl. If you’ve achieved this result, you put too much water in:
When you come to the bowl for green, disperse your matcha green tea powder in a little bit of water first. Whisk it through so no lumps remain, and then pour into the bowl of ingredients. Mix as you mixed the others.
That is what you’re looking for ^. The bowl on the very left has too much water in it, and I had to abandon it. The two bowls to the right are the correct consistency- very crumbly, but starting to come together.
Spread some cornstarch on your counter. Toss out your first bowl of dough.
Coat your hands in cornstarch to avoid the dough sticking. Knead with your fingers until the dough ball comes together completely, and until you can’t feel any more sugar granules. Everyone says it needs to feel ‘as soft as an earlobe’ but I’m not really sure what the hell that means. Should it just be soft? Have the same pliability as an earlobe? What do they mean?? I went for a dough that was soft, not crumbly, and would hold its shape when divided into balls, not melt against the counter top. You may find you have to add more cornstarch/ flour to achieve this consistency.
To shape, roll out your dough into a log and divide into even pieces. Roll between your hands to form balls. Set aside.
Repeat these steps for each of the colors. For the red, knead it out to the right consistency, and then add a drop of red food coloring to achieve the pink color.
Knead through, and keep adding drops a little at a time until you’re happy with the color.
A note on the consistency- the pink ones came out best. You can see they’re standing taller, and appear firmer. This is good. The matcha green ones were too soft, you can see cracks along their surface from where they spread out. The white were also too soft, I’d just reformed them before taking the picture. They actually needed more cornstarch mixed in.
Bring a pot of water to boil. The water level should be quite high. Prepare a bowl of ice water to toss dango into when they’re done cooking.
Take a tip from me! Stir your water vigorously in a circle to create a whirlpool effect. Then drop in the dango, one color at a time. Keep the whirlpool going. You are doing this to try to stop the dango from sticking to the bottom on the pan. Stir every once in a while to prevent them from sticking.
They need to boil about 3-5 minutes. When they float to the top, they’ll be ready.
As soon as they’re done, use a slotted spoon to take them out of the water and drop them in the ice bath. Allow the water to reboil before adding in the next color.
At this point, it came to my attention that the balls weren’t perfect circles anymore. Once in the ice-bath (mine is just really cold water, because I don’t have ice), you can gently reshape into circles to achieve a more desirable shape. Under normal circumstances, I don’t think you should have to do this. Dango should retain their circular shape no problem. I think just using the Mochiko flour made them too soft, and therefore prone to getting out of shape. But, I’m not entirely sure. If you know why my dango got out of shape, please enlighten me!
Anyway, cook, ice bath, and then drain all dango. Skewer them while they’re fresh, green first, then white, and then pink.
And now they’re done! They tasted good, but had a slightly grainy texture in the middle, and were really sticky. I think this had to do with the fact that I only used one kind of flour, but I’m not entirely sure.
Hopefully this post can help you out! Even if I didn’t achieve a perfect set of dango (BTW, this should make 5 skewers but I messed up.), hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and use my tips.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, and have a great day! 🙂