Good afternoon from Melbourne! We’ve only been here a few days but it’s been absolutely lovely so far! Today is the fifth Virtual Vegan Potluck (December 13, 2014) and this is my third time participating in the VVP in the Appetizer course. It is a one day event that brings participating food bloggers together to share a cruelty-free and animal-free virtual potluck from appetizers to desserts. The greatest gratitude goes to the lovely Annie of An Unrefined Vegan, my mentor for the Appetizer course, the sweet Poppy of Bunny Kitchen and the fabulous host site, Virtual Vegan Potluck (VVP).
My Salt and Pepper Tofu Gua Bao won the award for best appetizer in last year’s VVP and I’m excited to share another Asian appetizer with my readers today. I’m bringing Mitarashi Dango (Sweet Glazed Japanese Skewered Rice Dumplings) to the potluck. This recipe also featured on the cover of Fresh View Magazine, Issue #4, so do check out this amazing vegan foodie magazine run by husband and wife team Ron & Jacqui!
Originating from the Kamo Mitarashi Tea House in Kyoto near the Shimogamo Shrine, Mitarashi Dango (みたらし団子) is a popular Japanese snack consisting of mildly sweet glazed rice dumplings skewered onto sticks. Typically these dumplings are served 3-5 per skewer (traditionally 5). You can find them everywhere in Japan including convenience stores and supermarkets. This type of dango is easily made vegan and gluten-free. The savory and sweet caramel-colored sauce is known as mitarashi sauce. The sauce pairs well with the bland, slightly sticky and chewy dango, or unfilled mochi dumplings.
There are a few Japanese ingredients required to make this: mochiko (sweet rice flour), katakuriko (potato starch) and mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine) that you might not be familiar with.
We recently bought a tiny electric Japanese BBQ grill (available on Amazon.com), which is an alternative to the traditional charcoal BBQ and an ideal (but by no means necessary) piece of equipment for grilling dango. If you do not have a Japanese charcoal or electric grill, you can use a griddle or grill pan for this recipe. A non-stick frying pan will also work, just make sure you brush the dango with a bit of oil to lightly fry until the exterior is slightly charred.
I would like to provide a brief rundown of a few Japanese ingredients used in this recipe before we get started.
Mochiko is a sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour). It is readily available at Japanese or Asian supermarkets and on Amazon.com. I prefer the Koda Farms brand which comes in a small white box and is GMO-Free. Do not confuse glutinous rice flour with “gluten”, it is naturally gluten-free. Also note that “sweet rice flour” or “glutinous rice flour” is not the same as “rice flour.” If you choose to omit firm silken tofu, use ½ cup warm water or less depending on consistency of the mixture.
Katakuriko is a Japanese potato starch, also known as potato starch and used as a starchy thickening agent. You can use regular potato starch. Please note, potato starch and potato flour are two uniquely different ingredients.
Lastly, mirin is a versatile ingredient used in Japanese cuisine. It’s a sweet rice wine similar to sake but with lower alcohol content and higher sugar content and used in a mitarashi sauce. It helps to add a mild sweetness to sauces and glazes.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour and starch and add sugar. Using your hands, mash the tofu and add to the mixture. Mix together well until dough is smooth and soft, neither sticky or too dry. Divide the dough into 12 balls (about 1- 1¼ inches in diameter) and set aside.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook in few batches, carefully dropping the dumplings, one by one, into the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface, 3 to 4 minutes. Continue to cook, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove dumplings and immediately transfer to the ice bath and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and thread 4 to 5 dumplings onto each skewer. Heat a grill or grill pan (rub a little bit of oil on the pan). When it is hot, cook skewers, turning several times, until lightly charred or browned.
Meanwhile make the sauce. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except starch. Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and stir, about 2 minutes. Mix starch with 1 tablespoon water and add to pan. Stir with a wire whisk until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside. To serve, arrange skewered dumplings on a plate and drizzle with sauce and black sesame seeds (for texture).
Advance Preparation: Mitarashi Dango is best served the day it’s made, however cooked dumplings will keep in an airtight container for two to three weeks in the freeze. To use frozen dumplings, thaw at room temperature or microwave before grilling. To store your remaining dumplings in the freezer, pat them dry, separate and place in an airtight container with enough space to avoid your dumplings freezing together.
Mochiko flour and katakuriko are readily available at Asian supermarkets or on Amazon.com. If not available, look for “sweet rice flour” and “potato starch.” Do not confuse "sweet rice flour” with "rice flour”; they are distinctively different.
To omit firm silk tofu, use ½ cup warm water or less depending on the mixture.
There are also sweet versions of Dango with toppings like sweet black sesame powder (this can easily be made by toasting black sesame and grinding with sugar). They are insanely good as well, but we prefer the salty and sweet glaze from our recipe.
Enjoy and bon appétit xx
To go to the beginning of the potluck, go to Virtual Vegan Potluck.