Kibi-dango (Dumpling with millet)
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
Although “Kibi” the plant has the same pronunciation as “Kibi” the area, its Kanji character is completely dissimilar.
“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.
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.
#How to make kibi-dango
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
Oyatsu In Japanese, snacks between meals are called “oyatsu”, usually eaten around three o’clock. Personally, I believe Japanese snacks and confectionery have the best taste and the largest selections in the world, although I sometimes miss Walkers crisps cheese and onion flavour. [My oyatsu on one day] “Puccho” A soft type candy like […]
T.K.G. (Raw Egg on Rice) You know already what’s TKG, right? If not yet, check out my post here about Tamago Kake Gohan. Two years ago, I saw this TV program featuring a place that serves all you can eat Tamago Kake Gohan for 300 yen (about $3)! Yes, only raw eggs and rice, crazy right? Crazy indeed, […]
If you are a tourist here in Japan, you surely have encountered this products in tourist shops, department stores and at the train station. Boxes and boxes of sweet delicacies associated with each place you visit – Omiyage. So what is an Omiyage? Well, most westerners will literally translate it to souvenirs but its a […]
Summer in Japan is finally here! Finally, the season for Matsuri(festivals). Japan as busy as a country it may seem has a year-long list of festivals it celebrate all over the country. For most tourists, this is the best time to experience first-hand Japanese traditions and culture. In most of these festivals, you will find […]
Oyatsu (2) [My oyatsu on another day] “Takenoko no sato” (Land of bamboo shoots) About 150 yen. This one is a sister product of “Kinoko no yama”. (Mountain of mushrooms) “Takenoko” is a chocolate coated cookie. “Kinoko” has a chocolate cap and a cracker stipe. In Japan, “The battle between the Takenoko party and the […]
Japanese companies usually hold 歓迎会(kangeikai or welcome party) to welcome new employees and 送別会( Soubetsukai or farewell party) for those leaving. In some cases, the welcome and farewell parties are combined into one — 歓送迎会(kansougeikai). These are usually dinner parties held in nice restaurants.The party is usually started with speeches by the company president or any […]
The temperature is getting cold and it’s finally autumn. Talking about autumn, there is a common term in Japanese, “aki no mikaku.” “Aki” stands for autumn and “mikaku” is taste, which actually refers to “autumn food.” When you say autumn food, first thing that comes up to my mind is “sanma”, a Pacific saury fish. […]
On my first visit to Tokyo we visited Tsukishima district famous for monjyayaki – it is so famous that there is a street filled with stores that serve this famous kanto specialty. So what exactly is monjyayaki or monjya as it is popularly known. Monjyayaki or simple monjya is a type of Japanese pancake made […]
Winter in Japan is getting colder every year. I was able to experience an unexpected heavy snowfall for the first time here in Okayama around this time last year. Eight centimeters of piled-up snow might not be that much compared to other areas but in Okayama it’s a first time in a couple of decades. Speaking […]
As what we can learn from our previous post about kibi-dango, the kibi-dango we can buy from souvenir stores nowadays is different from the original kibi-dango that uses millet as its main ingredient. The Kibi-dango Let’s have a refresher first. Kibi-dango (吉備団子) is the dumpling that is a popular souvenir from the Okayama Prefecture. It […]