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Kibi-dango (Dumpling with millet)

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/14 Food ,

Kibi-dango

In “Momotarou”, “Kibi-dango” plays a very important role – bait to attract three animals and seduce them into the battle against “Oni”(Japanese demons).
I love “Kibi-dango”, especially the plain one, but if you ask me whether I can fight against somebody like Chuck Norris for it, my answer is “Absolutely no way!!!”

The present “Kibi-dango” is totally different from the original.

-Box of Kibi-dango-The smallest and the cheapest.

-Box of Kibi-dango-
The smallest and the cheapest I could get at a supermarket in Okayama.

 

History

According to the website of the company “Koeido” which was established in 1856 and has sold “Kibi-dango” in Okayama for a long time, people could eat it in every millet-produced area back then.
“Kibi-dango” of that time was in the shape of rectangle, made with steamed powder of millet, and spoiled rapidly.
They had it with “An” (Sweet bean paste) or sauce or soup.

-Inside the box-10 dango individually wrapped in paper inside a sealed plastic bag, and a leaflet

-Inside the box-
Top: A leaflet.
Bottom: 10 dango individually wrapped in paper inside a sealed and punctured plastic bag.

Then, the company tried to improve it to keep its quality longer so that people could enjoy it as a refreshment not only in everyday life but also while on a trip.
“Mochi-gome” (sticky rice used for “mochi”, a rice-cake) became the main ingredient instead of millet powder, mixed with “mizu-ame” (liquid sweetener like corn syrup) and caster sugar which was valuable at the time, and added millet as a flavour.
This is the almost same recipe for the present “Kibi-dango”.

-6 images printed on paper wrapping "Kibi-dango"-

-6 images printed on paper wrapping "Kibi-dango"-

The company has kept researching, developing and improving its products, now there are “Fruit Kibi-dango” with peach / muscat flavour, “Koku-tou (brown sugar) Kibi-dango”, etc.

-"Kibi-dango"-Approx. 2 cm X 2.5 cm(1.5 inch X 2 inch)

-"Kibi-dango"-
Approx. 2 cm X 2.5 cm
(0.8 inch X 1 inch)

 

The word “Kibi” and Okayama

The vast area including Okayama pref. and around was once called as “Kibi no kuni”(The Country of Kibi).
In old times, Japan was consisted of a lot of small countries, and “Kibi” was one of them.
It is believed to have been the power, but eventually it belonged to “Yamato”, the another powerful country established in Nara area, as many other did.
There are still places that have names with “Kibi” in Okayama.

-Very roughly assumed area of the Old Kibi Kingdom-

-Very roughly assumed area of the Old Kibi Kingdom-
Illustration from Illust-ya

Although “Kibi” the plant has the same pronunciation as “Kibi” the area, its Kanji character is completely dissimilar.

-Kanji for 2 different "Kibi"-

-Kanji for 2 different "Kibi"-

 

“Kibi-dango” in Hokkaido

My friend in Hokkaido once said to me she loved “Kibi-dango”, so I kindly sent our Okayama Kibi-dango.
She thanked me and told me it was not the one she knew, she preferred Hokkaido version.

I answered to her I’d never heard of Hokkaido Kibi-dango.
When I received it from her, it gave me a shock at a glance.
It had the plate-like, rectangle shape, thinner and much bigger than Okayama one.
“How dare people in Hokkaido call this dango?! As long as it is called dango, its shape must be round!!”
With righteous anger as an Okayama local, I opened it, then what I saw was a chocolate-bar-like dark-brown stuff wrapped in oblate (Very thin, translucent paper-like thing made from starch and gelatin).
It was too big for me to eat in one time, and I didn’t like the taste very much.

 

-"Kibi-dango" Hokkaido style-Left to right:package, insideI found this at a local store.Its manufacturing company is in Nagoya, not Hokkaido.

-"Kibi-dango" Hokkaido style-
Left: package.
Right: inside.
I found this at a local store.
Its manufacturing company is in Nagoya, not Hokkaido.

This time, I checked the Hokkaido “Kibi-dango” company’s website and I learnt the name “Kibi-dango” was a kind of pun, had no meaning of “millet” nor “dumpling”.
Therefore, the company doesn’t use millet at all for this product, not even for taste.
Despite all these facts, still the “Momotarou” image is printed on its wrap and that makes more confusing, because people associate the name and the image with dumpling with millet.
It has been sold since 1923 after the tremendous earth quake in Tokyo, Kanagawa and surroundings. (“Kanto Dai-Shinsai”, The great earthquake in Kanto area)

Anyway, of course I prefer Okayama “Kibi-dango”, but it’s always interesting and amusing to know local differences.

 

Related posts:
#How to make kibi-dango

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kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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