If I had to choose one snack which represents Japan, it would have to be the Dango. Dango is a Japanese sweet dumpling made from rice flour (mochiko) similar to mochi. Dangos are amazing because there are so many ways that they can be prepared and eaten. Typically, they are served on a skewer with three to four per skewer and paired with green tea.
The most common way to eat dango is with "anko" or sweetened red bean paste. The dango themselves can also be flavored, such as green-tea; these are called "Chadango".
Another popular type of dango is the "mitarashi" dango which is covered with syrup made from soy sauce and sugar (pictured on the right, above).
There are many ways to cook the dango too. You can grill it, steam it, or even poach it. Personally, my favorite is grilling it because it gets slightly crispy on the outside but stays gooey on the inside.
Hanami dango are popular during Sakura (cherry blossom) viewing season (April) and have three different colors to represent flowers. Hanami literally means "seeing flowers".
Kibi or Kinako dango (pictured above) are also very tasty and covered in slightly sweetened millet flour. This variety of dango was featured in the tale of Momotaro, a folkloric Japanese boy hero who offered Kibi dango to animals in exchange for their help in fighting demons.
During the celebration of the full moon (sometime around September/October), the Japanese also serve Tsukimi dango (pictured above). The Tsukimi (moon viewing) dango are typically eaten together with family while enjoying the full moon and also offered to the gods as an offering.
There are so many different types of dango in Japan. What's your favorite?
Dango for all the Clannad fans out there!
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Nagano is not often spoken of as a primary tourist destination in Japan. But a couple of notable claims-to-fame make Nagano a very interesting place to visit indeed.