Monday, August 11, 2008


Day twenty-one: Dango / 団子

Furuya-Koganean, 3-2-4 Hatagaya, Shibuya-ku, ¥945/box of 5

From 1936 until about 10 years ago, Furuya-Koganean operated out of a single shop, doing a respectable trade in sweet staples such as yōkan and monaka. Then one of its products was “discovered” by a Mitsukoshi depachika buyer, and, ta-da, a star was born. Like a hit TV show, Furuya spun off one company (Hideki) and then another (Koganean—of which, more later), and today boasts 20 outlets. Unlike many spinoffs, all of Furuya’s offshoots are known for maintaining the quality of the original.

But jewel in the company crown in still the product chosen by Mitsukoshi as the best of the best, their dango, seen above in a picture that doesn’t begin do them justice. That heap that looks like salt and pepper is actually crushed black sesame seeds and wasambon sugar. Something like 98% of the sesame consumed in Japan was grown in China for oil extraction; Furuya’s toasty, aromatic black sesame is grown in Japan with just this end in mind. Wasambon sugar, as previously mentioned, is a rare and delicate sugar coaxed out of tiny Chinese canes on the island of Tokushima.

Buried under that delicious detritus are three pale, chubby dango on a bamboo skewer. There are almost limitless variations, but dango are basically balls of flour-based dough that are steamed or boiled until translucent and succulent; these are made using sweet rice flour, hot water, and nothing else. Dango are a bland but adhesive core that can be doused in a range of sauces, pastes and powders, such as salty/sweet crushed goma. At first I was cursing the powdery mixture for flying up my nose but by the end I was mopping up the spillage with a damp finger.

Furuya starts production at 3 o’clock every morning, and advises that their dango must be eaten the same day. Well, if you say so…

The pictures below show the packaging for the dango 5-pack, and the premises of the original shop.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I am happy to have discovered your blog on a search for Furuya Koganean. A friend gave me some dorayaki from that shop (we live not far from Hatagaya), and I just had to look up the address to go there myself. :-) Looking forward to reading more about your sweets journey through Japan. Always something new to find, no matter how long I live here. Thank you!