Sasa Dango : Niigata’s Specialty Rice Dumpling
The prefecture where I live, Niigata is very famous as a production area of rice in Japan. The rice tastes very good, so there are several popular specialties made from it in Niigata, which include Sake rice wine and Senbei rice crackers.
Especially, the Sake and the Senbei produced in Niigata are not only famous in Japan, but they are also enjoyed in countries other than Japan. For example, the Japanese rice cracker fairly well-recognized in some countries, Kaki no Tane originated in Niigata.
In addition to these, actually there is one more specialty food in Niigata that shouldn’t be forgotten, which is a traditional confection familiar to the people born and raised in the prefecture.
Sasa Dango (笹団子)
The traditional sweet my birthplace Niigata boasts is called “Sasa Dango (笹団子)”. As you may know, “Dango (団子)” are traditional Japanese rice dumplings, while “Sasa (笹)” refers to bamboo leaves. Therefore, Sasa Dango are rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.
Specifically, the rice dumpling wrapped in the bamboo leaf is a type of Mochi confection “Yomogi Mochi (よもぎ餅)”, which consists of a mugwort-flavored rice dumpling filled with sweet Azuki red bean paste “Anko (餡子)“. Actually, “Yomogi (よもぎ)” means mugwort in Japanese.
The rice dumpling in which mugwort is kneaded features a distinctive pleasant fragrance in addition to having a deep green color. In texture, it is somewhat hard and quite chewy compared to other Dango dumplings.
It is said that Sasa Dango has more than 400 years of history. As you can imagine from the appearance, the rice dumpling wrapped in the bamboo leaf was a portable preserved food in the old days. In fact, bamboo leaf is known for having a bactericidal effect.
Where to Buy Sasa Dango
The confection, Sasa Dango can be found at souvenir shops in train stations in Niigata. If you have a plan to come to my prefecture, why not give it a try? Just with one bite, you will be impressed by the distinctive delicious taste and pleasant fragrance of Sasa Dango.