You might be asking, what is dango? Well, if you’ve ever spotted the emoji of three colored balls on a skewer, you’re heading in the right direction! This popular Japanese dessert consists of little sweet rice flour dumplings that make a perfect on-the-go snack. There are so many different varieties and types of dango that you’ll probably never manage to try them all!
There are many different types of dango, each with unique flavors and characteristics making up their backstory. So what’s the best dango type? We’ve chosen some of the most popular and most common types of dango to explore further here. You’ll be sure to find your favorite dango type. Get ready to feel hungry!
1. Mitarashi Dango
Often considered one of the most popular types of dango flavors, mitarashi dango is the quintessential snack version found in convenience stores. Mitarashi (みたらし団子) is smaller than other dango and is drizzled with or dipped into a sweet glaze made from soy sauce and sugar. While this means the outside of the dango will taste sweet and soy-like, the dumpling itself has a more subtle flavor.
Mitarashi dango is usually eaten in the springtime but can absolutely be enjoyed throughout the year.
2. Tsukishi Dango
Tsukishi dango – also called Tsukimi dango – consists of plain white dumplings that are not served on the skewer. Instead, you’ll see these dumplings decoratively displayed on a plate, sometimes with the uppermost dumpling colored a bright yellow. Why? Tsukishi dango (月見だんご) is an integral part of the annual Moon Festival, held in the fall – and this yellow dango represents the harvest moon.
3. Hanami Dango
Hanami means ‘flower viewing’, and is particularly well known for describing the cherry blossom season that’s famous throughout Japan during springtime. This explains why hanami dango (花見団子) features three differently colored dumplings on a bamboo skewer: By using the colors of pink, white, and green, the dumplings represent springtime flowers and the burst of new growth. You may also see this type of sango referred to as Sanshoku, meaning ‘three colors’.
4. Kusa Dango
Bright green in appearance, the beautifully colored kusa dango (草団子) is a treat for both the eyes and the tastebuds. The dough used for this dango is made with young Japanese mugwort (yomogi) leaves that have been steamed, which results in a wonderfully earthy flavor – a little like green tea.
Kusa dango is usually made when mugwort leaves are in season from March to May, and will often be served at tea ceremonies.
5. Kuri Dango
If you’re a nut fan, kuri dango ((栗だんご) is the perfect snack for you. Covered in a sweet pureed chestnut paste, this dango has a wonderfully rich flavor and creamy texture too. It’s particularly popular during fall when chestnuts are in season.
You can also find an alternative version of kuri dango where the dumplings are filled with chestnut paste or chestnut chunks and served in a bowl.
6. Goma Dango
Goma dango (ごま団子) involves dumplings rolled in sesame (either seeds or in paste form) and filled with anko (red bean) paste. Interestingly, they’re usually deep fried which creates a wonderfully crisp and crunchy outer layer.
7. Anko Dango
Anko is a popular red bean paste used in plenty of Japanese desserts. Anko dango (あんこ団子) is one such sweet treat, with a skewer of dumplings topped with the delicious anko paste.
8. Kinako Dango
There’s a wonderful delicacy associated with kinako dango (きなこ団子). These dumplings are dusted or rolled with roasted soybean flour called kinako, which adds a fine texture and lovely taste too. Kinako tastes a little like roasted peanuts and is often used to flavor traditional Japanese desserts – and is always delicious with a cup of green tea!
9. Sasa Dango
Sasa dango (笹団子) has a wonderfully different / unexpected presentation. These dark green dumplings are wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied up with a string made from sedge grass. Inside, the dumplings are filled with red bean paste and flavored with mugwort leaves (sasa), which are traditionally collected from the local area in Niigata Prefecture. As such, sasa dango is Niigata’s speciality!
10. Kurogoma Dango
The deliciously decadent kurogoma dango (('黒ゴマ') is coated in a mixture of black sesame powder and sugar, often ground coarsely into a paste. This dango looks and tastes like a showstopper, and is a particular favorite for atmospheric occasions.
11. Sakura Mochi Dango
This spring-time dango variety is all about the cherry blossoms. Sakura Mochi Dango is a beautifully chewy yet light dango, flavored with the subtle notes of floral blossoms. It’s so beloved that this sakura mochi stick has become a popular snack sold at the train station in Kyoto during sakura season. Why not visit our Japanese snack store Boutique to try one premium Sakura Dango Mochi ship direct from Japan yourself?
12. Yomogi Dango
Like kusa dango, the use of young yomogi leaves makes an appearance in this dango type. Yomogi dango (よもぎ団子) is a lovely shade of green thanks to the leaves in the dough. It’s served on a stick and will usually be drizzled with sweet anko bean paste too.
13. Zunda Dango
Zunda dango (ずんだ) is made with a bright green paste of cooked and pureed edamame beans that’s sweetened with a bit of sugar. By adding this on top of the dango dumplings, a delicious snack is created. Zunda dango is particularly popular in the Tohoku region of Japan and is even purchased as a souvenir for visitors!
14. Ikinari Dango
Bigger and wider than its counterparts – and rather more unique – is ikinari dango. This type of dango takes slices of yellow sweet potato and a layer of red bean paste, wraps them in flour dough and steams them. The end result is a type of steamed bun that’s served on a plate instead of on a skewer.
Ikinari, which means ‘easy’ or ‘suddenly’ in Japanese, lends itself to the notion that this dango is a super-quick snack to make. It’s a speciality of the Kumamoto prefecture, thanks to the volcanic ash that prompts huge harvests of sweet potatoes in the area.
15. Isobe Dango
The word isobe means rocky seashore, and that oceanic element is clear with isobe dango (磯辺団子). Either each dumpling will be individually wrapped with a square of nori (seaweed), or the entire skewer will be wrapped with a nori sheet – though be forewarned, the latter version makes eating the dumplings one by one a little trickier!
16. Kibi Dango
Kibi dango (きび団子) differs from other types of dango in terms of ingredients. Rather than sweet rice flour, kibi dango is actually made with kibi (millet) flour, which is the same grain used for Japanese kayu (porridge). Kibi dango hails from Okayama Prefecture, but is also well known for its part in the Japanese folktale of Momotarō.
We hope this article has given you an insight into the world of Japanese dango flavors, and shown you why dango is such a delicious way to get to grips with Japanese culture.
Why not try some of the dango flavors on offer at Bokksu Boutique? There are plenty of delicious types of dango to try, like the Kyoto Matcha Dango flavored with roasted soybean powder – or maybe the wonderfully spring-like trio of colorful Mocchan Dango takes your fancy instead?