Dango Jiro (Dumpling Soup in Japan)

dango-closeup1.jpg
Last January I posted about my experience testing an unusual recipe for a fellow blogger who is in the process of writing a cookbook about Asian home-cooking. The dango soup recipe seemed unusual because the dumplings are made with all-purpose wheat flour. Usually, dango are made with rice flour (mochi). Dango recipes are often for sweets, but I’ve seen a number of savory soups.

  • From my online research (?-able) sometimes dango also refers to dumplings made of meat or seafood.

A friend of mine gave me a Japanese cookbook published in Hawaii by “Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple” in 1973; the recipes are home-cooking versions of Japanese foods, (also Japan-ified Korean, Chinese, and American foods) with apparent substitutions for ingredients not readily available. I had assumed the January recipe-test was similar to the ones in my little booklet: an adaptation. But a post about spinners and suiton got me wondering if wheat dumplings are made in Japan.

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dango-collander.jpg After much searching, I found Oita. It is a rural area in the Kyushu region in southern Japan, well known for abundant onsen hot springs. It is also famous for its dumpling soup (dango jiru). This is a miso soup with vegetables, and often chicken or pork. What sets it apart are the dango. Oita dango are made with wheat flour. The dough is flattened and then stretched by hand into long noodles.

And BINGO!!! I also found this recipe! I used this as a guide for my exploration.

Dango:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • ~1/3 cup water

dango-noodles.jpgPut the flour in a large bowl and whoosh in the salt. Make a well in the center and pour in about 3 Tablespoons of the water. With a fork or chopsticks, use a stirring motion (clockwise) to push dry flour into the liquid. When you have lots of sticky bits and yet lots of dry flour, add a little more water and stir (clockwise) some more. Repeat until the flour looks like coarse sand or even like gravel. At this point, you can gather up the mixture and press it into a ball. Knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and soft. Cover it with a damp napkin and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. Flatten the ball of dough and cut it into 16 equal pieces. Gently stretch each piece; you won’t be able to make them very long yet—lay them out in order as you work. Start again with the first piece and stretch; this time each noodle will be a little longer. When you place a newly stretched noodle down, you’ll notice it will shrink a bit. After about 2 rounds of stretching and the noodles are shrinking a lot, cover the noodles with a damp napkin and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes. After a few rounds of stretching and resting, my noodles were 20″ to 24″ long! This is probably a non-Kosher technique but it works. I put them on a dry towel on a rack, covered them with a dry towel, and proceeded with the rest of the cooking.

In some regions of Japan (Kyushu and Shikoku), dashi for miso soup is made with niboshi (dried baby sardines). I’d planned to make this, but I bought “Taberu Niboshi.” After googling (because all the recipes said to remove the heads of the niboshi and pull out the guts, but mine seemed to have no “mess”), I realized what I bought are a ready to eat snack. Not being sure that these would work, I made a vegetarian stock based on a recipe from Elizabeth Andoh (Washoku: recipes from the Japanese home kitchen).
Dashi:

  • 4″ by 6″ piece of kombu
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 1/2 cups water

Put the above ingredients into a medium sized pot and let them soak for at least 2 hours (or refrigerate up to a day). The natural flavor-enhancing glutamates in the kelp and fungus infuse the water gently. Over medium heat, bring the water almost to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, maintaining a bare simmer. Let it stand off the heat for 5 minutes, then remove the kombu & shrooms, and strain through a cloth.

  • As with other dashi stocks, do not boil this because it will become cloudy and bitter. Ms. Andoh’s notes for all her stocks say not to freeze them, but I’ve followed Ms. Shimbo’s advice and have usually made extra stock to freeze. Likely, some freshness is lost in freezing the stock, but for my convenience, it is nice to have it on hand after a day at work.

Soup:
The recipe I was using as a guide suggests carrots, shiitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, daikon, cabbage, tofu, aburage, potatoes, onion, spinach, green beans. And from my other recipe research I think a cook has quite a variety of ingredients to consider.

I chose:dango jiru ingredients

  • carrots, taro, and choy sum (a Chinese vegetable that has spinach-like leaves, cabbage-like stalks, and broccoli-like flowers)
  • Sliced shiitake from the broth making
  • Saikyo miso (sweet white miso)
  • green onions for a garinsh

I cooked the dango separately in boiling water then added it to the soup
dango jiru Japanese Dumpling SoupNOTE: For my online research, I also found several other recipes:
This one with pictures.
This one from Hawaii.
And another from Hawaii with both wheat and rice flour.
And this reference, using the mysterious mountain yam
There was another reference that I can no longer find to making the dango with okonomiyaki mix with flour which contains powdered mountain yam.

dango jiru Japanese Dumpling Soup
We put the sesame chicken in the same bowl with the soup and sat on our bed to watch a dvd on the laptop with trays. Big smile: :-)
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2 thoughts on “Dango Jiro (Dumpling Soup in Japan)

  1. Delicious! Did it take a very long time? But it definitely sounds like it was worth it! Have you seen Chinese chefs making la mian (hand-pulled noodles)? I still can’t work out how it’s done. I took photos (Inn Noodle post), but couldn’t quite capture the moment. Video next time!

    Helen Yuet Ling

  2. Helen,

    It was not difficult; I’ve seen videos about making la mian and they are amazing. These noodles were nothing like that!

    These noodles were stretched one by one and I only managed that by letting the dough rest between the pulls. There is a similar recipe called yaseuma that I’m planning to make and I’ll try to get pictures of the actual noodle-making process.

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