Mitarashi dango (みたらし団子)
Mitarashi dango are dumplings coated with a soy-and-sugar syrup, and usually three to five are stuck on a stick.
It is also called shoyudare dango (dumplings dipped in a soy-based sauce) or yaki dango (toasted dumplings). Sometimes it is called just mitarashi, and omita is the polite name. In many areas, the salty-sweet mitarashi dango refers to shoyu dango (dumplings dipped in soy-based sauce).
As for salty dumplings which are without sugar-added kuzuan (a thick sauce whose main ingredient is arrowroot starch), see Article "Shoyu dango"
Mitarashi dango were originally made at the Kamo Mitarashi Tea House at Shimogamo, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto City, and apparently these dumplings were made to look like bubbles in the Mitarashi no ike Pond, which is in the precincts of Shimogamo-jinja Shrine. The thick sweet sauce made of arrowroot starch' and 'the savory smell of a slightly burned surface' are especially preferred.
At the Kamo Mitarashi Tea House, five dumplings are stuck on a stick, toasted until their surfaces are slightly burned, and coated with a sauce of arrowroot starch seasoned with soy sauce and sugar. Another feature is that the top dumpling is a little bigger than the others, and the top one on a stick is a little bit off from the other four. These dumplings stuck on a stick represent human beings. The top dumpling stands for a human head, and the rest represent legs and arms.
There is another view that these dumplings symbolize bubbles in the water, as mentioned before.)
A basic recipe for mitarashi dango is simpler than that for shoyu dango, and they are widely sold at supermarkets and convenience stores, for they are coated with soy-and sugar syrup and do not dry out easily. 'Mitarashi dango' sold at supermarkets and convinience stores is a set of three or four dumplings stuck on a stick and covered with soy-based sauce. The sauce contains more sugar in order to make a longer shelf life, considering a "best before"date and the costs of selling throughout the whole country, and the dumplings are not browned because the sauce contains a small portion of soy sauce giving a strong caramel flavor if it is browned. Compared with dumplings from tea houses and dumpling stores, taste of which is best on the day they are made, the dumplings sold widely tend to be too sweet.
Among the Japanese-style confections, there is a variation of mitarashi dango, which contains the sweet sauce of arrowroot starch in it instead of being coated with the sauce. Taretsutsumi dango' sold at the Awashima-Do and 'mitarashi hanako' of the Masuya head store (it went into voluntary liquidation on December 7, 2007) are two examples.