Kibidango: Momotaro’s Millet Dumpling from Okayama
Have you ever read the famous Japanese fairy tale “Momotaro (桃太郎)”? which, as you may know, is known under the title of “Peach Boy” in English-speaking countries.
In the story, the peach boy, Momotaro gives a food called “Kibi-Dango (きびだんご)” to a talking dog, monkey, and green pheasant to befriend.
What is Kibidango?
Actually, the name of the Japanese food, Kibidango is composed of 2 words, Kibi and Dango, and the former, Kibi can mean 2 different things here. “Kibi (吉備)” and “Kibi (黍)”.
In the former case, the “Kibi-Dango (吉備団子)” refers to Okayama’s specialty rice dumpling consisting of “Gyuhi (求肥)”, as the prefecture was called “Kibi-Koku (吉備国)” in ancient times.
Gyuhi is one of the essential ingredients for “Wagashi (和菓子)” traditional Japanese confections, which is made by kneading “Mochi-Ko (餅粉)” or “Shiratama-Ko (白玉粉)” glutinous rice flour mixed with sugar and starch syrup.
Therefore, Okayama’s Kibidango is a Gyuhi in itself, which is sometimes flavored with millet powder.
In the latter case, the “Kibi-Dango (黍団子)” refers to a traditional dumpling made of millet as “Kibi (黍)” is the Japanese word for millet. This Kibi-Dango is Momotaro’s Kibidango, first appeared in a document dated March 19th, 1488.
The Origin of Okayama’s Kibidango
Image: Goo Blog Takeo 1213
It is said that the Okayama’s specialty rice dumpling Kibidango was first created by “Koeido (廣榮堂)”, a confectionery company located in the city of Okayama, around 1856.
Now in Okayama, there are 2 companies named Koeido producing Kibidango, because the originator of Okayama’s Kibidango “Koeido (廣榮堂)” was divided into the 2 companies “Koeido-Honten (廣榮堂本店)” and “Koeido-Takeda (廣榮堂武田)”.
Either way, I love Koeido’s Kibidango. The Gyuhi rice dumpling has a gentle sweetness and is very soft and has become one of the souvenirs that represent Okayama today.
Nihonichi Kibidango from Hokkaido
Actually, Japan has one more famous Kibidando, which is completely different from that of Okayama. The Kibidango “Nihon-Ichi Kibidango (日本一きびだんご)” is a kind of Dagashi candy and is sold mainly in Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture of Japan.
The Hokkaido’s Kibidango is a Mochi-like treat made mainly with “Mochi-Gome (餅米)” glutinous rice, sugar, malt syrup, and sweet red bean paste, which is coated with a thin wafer sheet.