Mochi Diaries: Ninja Kusa Dango 草餅

Today I bring to the table The Mochi Diaries Chapter 5 – Ninja Kusa Dango 草餅

I picked up this box on a recent trip to the Iga Ueno Ninja Festival (伊賀上野 NINJA フェスタ ) a 5 week event that is run by the city of Iga 伊賀市 in Mie prefecture 三重県 from April 1st to May 6th each year. When a couple of friends suggested hiring a car and driving down for the weekend I was more than excited, and keen to get my ninja on! To anyone that has not been, the trip comes with my highest recommendation!

20121108-e58d88e5be8c032636Anyhow on to the review: As a foreword, this mochi doesn’t actually have anything to do with ninja. In fact, rather than mochi, today’s review is about kusa dango 草団子 (grass dango). Dango, whilst being almost identical to mochi, is a separate type of wagashi. Generally speaking the difference is that mochi is made by pounding glutinous rice into a dough whereas dango is made by adding water to mochiko 餅粉 (glutinous rice flour) and boiling or grilling the resulting dough.

7185_b2_2013_CS4So why the ninja packaging? I suspect it results from an archaic reading of the kanji, 草, which could once be read to mean ‘ninja’. It’s essentially a pun!

Unlike any mochi 餅 or dango 団子 that I have featured thus far, as opposed to the usual mochi outer layer filled with a sweet centre (usually azuki あずき) this kusa dango lies on a bed of anko 餡こ (sweetened red bean paste). Instead of just popping them in your mouth, a small spoon is provided to scoop the dango up with a little anko on the side.

Last summer, I became somewhat addicted to kakigori (shaved ice) and decided to get myself a machine to make it at home. Using the kusa dango, I thought I’d try out the very traditional ujikintoki kakigori flavor which is typically topped with sweetened red bean paste, dango, and often capped with condensed milk. It was a great way to consume these little treats.


If you see these guys floating around pick up a box and try making your own!


Daniel ‘Taco’ Taccone

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