Dango with Red Bean Paste is simply an easy little Japanese snack to make at home. Chewy and soft rice dumplings are skewered, charred, and topped with chunky red bean paste, creating a satisfying contrast texture in your mouth.
Maybe you have seen dango being eaten in one of your favorite Japanese TV shows or anime. Dango is a popular Japanese street snack that is usually sold almost everywhere. You can find it at Japanese street cafes, convenience stores, supermarkets, street hawkers, and during festivals.
Tiny soft and chewy rice dumplings like mochi are skewered for easier eating. They come in various flavors and Dango with Red Bean Paste is one of the mainstream. Mitarashi Dango, which is basically plain dango with sweet soy sauce glaze, is also popular. I have featured it in my previous post, so make sure to take a visit.
Dango with Red Bean Paste is basically plain dango with red bean paste spread on the top of the mochi dumplings. It is served warm, which makes this a perfect sweet treat on a cold day. The dango itself does not taste like anything, it tastes just like plain rice. Rather, the sweet red bean pate topping dominates the whole flavor. The dango is grilled first before serving which results in springy and chewy texture. The charred part was what drew me in more. It gave the rice dumplings nice burnt flavor and crisp exterior.
How to Make Dango with Red Bean Paste
You do not need to especially visit Japan to enjoy this delicacy because you can make them in your kitchen. I thought that making dango was pretty difficult at first. But, trust me they are as easy as making Chinese glutinous rice balls or tang yuan. Dango is basically glutinous rice dough that is shaped into round balls, boiled, skewered, and grilled. For topping, you can buy it ready-made. However, I also have the Red Bean Paste recipe with some tips if you want to make it at home.
Here is step by step how to make Dango with Red Bean Paste at home.
1. Choose your flour
Dango is made from rice flour, but there are actually a few kinds of rice flour in Japan, called dangoko, joshinko, and shiratamako. They are all made from rice. The differences are in the process of making each flour and also the type of rice.
For the recipe, I used dangoko because that is what I had at the moment. I bought this dangoko at a local supermarket in Japan during my last vacation there. I had not done my research at that time and decided to buy it solely because of the dango visual on the packaging. They are firmer than the ones I tried in Kyoto. In fact, many people recommend making dango from the combination of joshinko and shiratamako for softer dango.
Shiratamako is from sweet glutinous Japanese short-grain rice. When you make dango with only shiratamako, the texture tends to be too soft. Therefore, joshinko which comes from regular short-grain Japanese rice is usually added with shiratamako to make the right dango texture. Of course, you can make dango with shiratamako only, depending on your availability and personal preference. For the best consistency, you can substitute dangoko with a proportion 50-50 ratio for joshinko and shiratamako.
2. Soak the skewers in water
Wooden skewers, like the classic bamboo skewers, can burn easily over a hot grill. Soaking them in water for about 30 minutes will make them last longer on the grill without burning up.
3. Make the dango dough
Making dango is just like making Chinese glutinous rice balls. They are made by mixing dangoko with warm water. This step is a little bit tricky because rice flour behaves like cornflour. A little too much water will make the dough too runny, while too much flour will make the dough cracks. Depending on the humidity, you will need to add more or less water. So, my suggestion is to add warm water a little at a time to the flour and knead until the dough comes together.
After that, take some dough in your palms and measure the weight each about 20 grams. Then, roll them into small balls (each about 1-inch diameter). I got 19 small balls from the recipe.
4. Cook the dango
Cook the balls in a pot with boiling water. You will know they are fully cooked when they float on the surface. Scoop them up and put them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Then, transfer them to a plate. Wet the surface of the plate with a little bit of water, just to make sure they do not stick to the surface.
5. Skewer the dango
Mitarashi Dango is a type of dango skewered onto sticks in 3-5 rice dumplings. Traditionally 5 rice dumplings are used per skewer, but I put 3 rice dumplings each for the recipe.
6. Grill the dango
Grilling the dango is the fun part of making the recipe. It depends on what you have. You can use either a non-stick frying pan, grill, or blow torch to make the burnt mark. I put my dango over the fire directly on my stovetop. It was pretty tiring to lift and rotate them, but I love the charred parts all over my dango.
7. Put the topping on dango
Lastly, finish the dango with red bean paste on the top. There are mainly two types of red bean paste, chunky and smooth red bean paste. The ingredients used and method of cooking are the same, but the smooth one requires additional steps of pureeing and straining the cooked beans to remove the husk.
You can use either chunky or smooth red bean paste for the recipe depending on your preference. I used the chunky red bean paste to create a nice contrast in texture with the soft rice dumplings. You can buy the paste ready-made. However, I also have the Red Bean Paste recipe with some useful tips if you want to make it at home.
More Japanese Dessert Recipes
If you don’t know, I have several Japanese dessert recipes that I think you will love.