Sanshoku dango is an iconic Japanese sweet rice cake treat - so iconic that it even has its own emoji! 🍡
Sanshoku dango is often sold in the spring as the colors represent Japan’s world-renowned cherry blossom (sakura) season. You may see it calledhanamidango, a term roughly translated as “flower-viewing”. For generations, families and friends across Japan partake in hanami, laying tarps out under blooming sakura trees. They enjoy one another’s company while sharing seasonal food and drink, such as sanshoku dango.
What do the dango colors mean?
The term “sanshoku” translates to “three colors”. It’s a straightforward name for a treat that carries considerable meaning. The beautiful colors - pink, white, and green - symbolize the sakura life cycle.
Pink represents the young buds that emerge on bare branches in early spring. White represents the five-petaled blossoms at their peak. And finally, green symbolizes the leaves that grow out of the branches once the last petals have fallen off the tree.
Dango is made from glutinous rice flour. This recipe uses mochiko, as well as silken tofu to achieve the bouncy, chewy texture. The pink dango in this recipe uses salt-pickled sakura blossoms and an optional dash of food coloring. The green dango is flavored with yomogi (Japanese mugwort), a medicinal herb native to Japan and historically appreciated for its anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of these traditional ingredients makes for a chewy, sweet, and floral treat.
While traditionally a springtime treat, we won’t blame you if you make these year-round! Don’t forget to pair them with a hot cup of green tea for a perfect afternoon snack.
Servings: 2 dango
- 10g (stems included) salt pickled sakura
- 40g mochiko (glutinous sticky rice powder)
- 20g granulated sugar
- 40g silken tofu
- 5g yomogi (mugwort) powder
- 1-2 drops pink food coloring (optional)
- Soak and agitate the salt pickled sakura in cold water to rinse off the salt; drain and dry as much as possible. Separate the pink petals from the brown stems. Discard stems and finely mince the blossoms. Set aside.
- Combine mochiko, sugar, and silken tofu. Mix to combine until the sides of the bowl are clean and the ingredients are formed into a smooth, pliable white ball
- Divide the dango dough into three equal portions.
- For one portion, divide into two pieces, and roll into smooth white balls. Set aside on a plate.
- For the green dough, add the yomogi powder, kneading until fully blended. Divide dough into two pieces and roll into smooth balls. Set aside with the white balls.
- For the pink dough: If adding pink food coloring, knead into the dough first until blended through. Next, knead in the finely minced cherry blossoms. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll into smooth balls. Set aside on the same plate as the other balls.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to medium for a gentler boil. Carefully lower the dango into the pot one at a time with a slotted spoon, stirring gently so the dango do not get stuck to each other or the bottom of the pot.
- Prepare a bowl of ice water.
- Once a dango floats to the surface of the water, remove it with a slotted spoon and plunge it into the ice water to stop the cooking. Repeat until all of the dango are out of the pot.
- Dry the cooled dango on a paper towel. Carefully skewer each into a sanshoku dango, starting with green on the bottom, then white, and finally pink at the top.
- Serve at room temperature. If storing leftovers, keep in an airtight container at room temperature for no more than a day in a cool, dry space.
- When forming the dango, ensure that you are working with clean, dry hands. Wet hands may make the dango sticky and difficult to shape.
- Before boiling, give each dango another quick roll, as the bottoms may have flattened out while resting on the plate.
- Boil each color dango separately starting with the white dango to prevent staining.
- Do not refrigerate leftovers, as dango may harden.
Recipe available in our Baking: "Amai" Care Package
About the recipe creator and photographer: Yaz Gentry is a freelance recipe developer and food-lover based in Tokyo, Japan. Half-Japanese and half-American, she enjoys fusing together seasonal ingredients and dishes from both cultures as a reflection of her mixed heritage. You can follow her culinary adventures on Instagram @blissprovisions and at www.blissprovisions.com.