The Difference: Mochi vs Dango vs Daifuku vs Manju
When you think of traditional Japanese sweets, or “Wagashi (和菓子)”, what comes to mind first? In recent years, thanks to online shopping sites, it is relatively easy to get Japanese confections even if you are not in Japan.
Besides, Japanese manga and anime may be helpful to know the sweet treats we Japanese commonly have in daily life, and in fact, you may have heard of the name of the Japanese foods “Mochi (餅)”, “Dango (団子)”, “Daifuku (大福)”, and “Manju (饅頭)” before.
Mochi vs Dango vs Daifuku vs Manju
Actually, these are the name of Japanese foods relating to sweet things. Then, what kinds of foods are Mochi, Dango, Daifuku, and Manju? and what is the difference between them? For the unfamiliar, here let me explain it.
Mochi is a plain white glutinous rice cake. It is made of glutinous rice called “Mochi-Gome (餅米)”. Traditionally, the rice is steamed and then pounded with a set of large wooden mortar “Usu (臼)” and large wooden pestle “Kine (杵)”.
Since Mochi contains no seasonings and only consists of glutinous rice, the rice cake itself isn’t a confection, and unlike Dango, Daifuku, and Manju, it is usually baked or steamed before used.
The cooked Mochi is very sticky and stretchy, so because of this, every year in Japan some people (especially the elderly) choke on it and die. The cooked plain rice cake is used in various dishes, both sweets, and non-sweets, like these.
Those Mochi dishes are often eaten during the cold winter months in Japan and the quintessential sweet soup dish using the rice cakes is “O-Shiruko (お汁粉)“, while the most popular savory soup is “O-Zoni (お雑煮)”.
Dango usually refers to a confection consisting of dumplings made from cereal flour, but it is also made from meat or other materials.
The Dango dumpling for sweets is typically made from non-glutinous “Uruchi (うるち)” rice flour. First, hot water is added to the rice powder and kneaded to make a dough. The rice dough is then formed into small balls and steamed or boiled.
Unlike Mochi rice cake, the cereal dumpling Dango is not that sticky and often sweetened with sugar. They are typically skewered on a wooden stick and served with sweet stuff.
The Dango confection is available in many varieties in Japan, but among those, “Mitarashi Dango (みたらし団子)” is most commonly eaten.
Consisting of three to five lightly grilled, unseasoned rice dumplings on a wooden skewer, Mitarashi Dango is covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze.
Daifuku, also called “Daifuku Mochi (大福餅)”, is a small, round glutinous rice cake with a sweet Azuki red bean paste filling called “Anko (餡子)“.
It is a traditional Japanese sweet consisting of Anko paste wrapped in a thin layer of soft, smooth Mochi rice cake, often dredged with corn starch. Hence, unlike Mochi, the outer surface of Daifuku isn’t that sticky.
In modern times, Daifuku is available in various variants, and among those, “Ichigo Daifuku (苺大福)” is the most popular. As Ichigo is the Japanese word for strawberry, it has a strawberry filling inside, together with sweet bean paste.
Unlike Mochi, Dango, and Daifuku, the main ingredient of Manju isn’t rice. Actually, Manju is a traditional Japanese steamed bun made from wheat flour and filled with Anko sweetened Azuki red bean paste.
As with the Dango and Daifuku confections, today Manju is available in many types, and among those “Cha-Manju (茶饅頭)” is the most common variety.
As “Cha (茶)” means brown in Japanese, Cha-Manju is a brown cake filled with Anko paste, featuring its soft, fluffy bun. Incidentally, the dough is made with wheat flour, brown sugar, and baking soda.