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Image Source : Niigata Tourism Association
- Main lore areas
- Main ingredients used
Dumpling flour, bamboo grass leaves, dried mugwort, red bean paste
- History/origin/related events
Sasa-dango, a well-known specialty of Niigata, is a bale-shaped dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied with a string of sedge or other material. It has been eaten in the Chuetsu and Shimoetsu regions of Niigata and parts of the Aizu region of Fukushima Prefecture for about 500 years. It is said that "Kenshin Uesugi used it as a portable food" because it was considered a portable preserved food in the Warring States period, as bamboo leaves have a sterilizing effect. It is also said that it was used as a portable food by Uesugi Kenshin. There are also various theories that it was born out of the wisdom of eating rice scraps that did not become tribute rice.
It was recommended as a souvenir at the Niigata National Athletic Meet held in 1964 and became famous for its resemblance to a rice bale, reminding people of Niigata as a rice-producing region. The rice-bag-like shape reminded people of Niigata as a rice-producing region. Today, it is eaten as a wagashi (Japanese confectionery) wrapped in red bean paste, but in the past, it is said to have served as a staple food with home-style side dishes such as kinpira and okaka (dried bonito flakes). On Hare no Hi, top rice was used and azuki beans were added. In some regions, dumplings with red bean paste are called "onna-dango", those with other ingredients than red bean paste are called "aemon-dango", and those with kinpira or without any ingredients are called "otoko-dango".
- Opportunities and times of eating habits
In Niigata Prefecture, farmers used rice scraps from their homes to make sweets, and "sasa dango" were made by households in early summer when the bamboo grass was beautiful, and in spring and fall when the mugwort was in season. Bamboo grass leaves were also eaten as a preservative because of their antiseptic effect, and were offered to Yakushi-sama on April 8 of the lunar calendar (May 8 in the new calendar), and many were made using rice flour on the Boys' Festival (Dango Sekku) on May 5. It is especially indispensable during the Kambara festival that marks early summer, and during rituals to pray for a bountiful harvest.
- How to eat
Make the dough with dango flour. Knead well, adding water-swollen mugwort. Fill the dough with azuki bean paste to make round dumplings. Wrap the dumplings in three pieces of bamboo grass, tie them with sedge or rush grass, and steam them in a steamer for 20 minutes. If the dumplings become hard, reheat them by steaming or microwaving.
- Efforts for Preservation and Succession
Even now, it is made at home during festivals and other events. There are many stores that sell "Sasa-dango" and they are mainly sold at Japanese confectionery stores and souvenir stores. Since the development of freezing technology, they are also exported to some foreign countries. Some regions and Japanese confectionery stores offer hands-on experience in making sasa-dango.