Sasa Dango

Picked these up from Shirokiya a few weeks back (and ate them immediately) during some product fair or another, so if you go by now, you won’t find them anymore – you’ll have to wait until next year. The packaging only says “sasa dango”, “yomogi mochi, tsubu-an,” and “ this is an unpreserved product – please keep refrigerated,” and I wasn’t paying close attention to the display at the kiosk, so I don’t know the brand or manufacturer. Knowing how the Shirokiya food festivals go, it was probably someone famous. Oh well.

Sasa dango are essentially mochi (cooked, glutinous rice that has been pounded into a homogenous paste) balls that are wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed. In this instance, the mochi was flavored with yomogi (mugwort/Artemisia vulgaris), and the filling was tsubu-an (coarsely processed, sweetened adzuki bean paste). This confection is popular in the Niigata region of Japan, and according to the internet, there are usually two versions: onna dango that contains tsubu-an, and otoko dango that contains kimpira (seasoned, julienned burdock root). I’m not sure if I’d really like the savory filling, but if I encounter it I will give it a try. These came trussed up in kinbaku fashion in a bundle of five. The “sasa” part of the name denotes the bamboo leaf wrapping, and although sasa is typically a horizontally growing, ground-cover type of bamboo, any large bamboo leaves can be used.

The flavor was subtle compared to other yomogi mochi I have had in the past. Yomogi stuff usually has an obviously “green”, slightly bitter flavor. The filling was moderately sweet and ample. Although called out as “tsubu”, it was not as coarse as I have experienced on other occasions. The balance of filling to mochi was perfect. Although typically sticky, the mochi released from the bamboo leaves easily and only left a few bits of stuck remainders at the leaf overlaps. The $10 USD price was a bit much, considering that made each one $2 USD! Not so good as value is concerned, but the quality made up for that. If you grew up eating these (which I didn’t) and felt some sense of nostalgia for them, then the price would be nothing compared with satisfying the need to re-experience the flavor.

Recommended

$10 USD plus sales tax

Three-and-a-half out of four mochi-pounding monkeys

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