If you find yourself walking down Nakamachi Street in need of a snack, you should check Gonta’s dango stand, a little gem hidden down one of Nakamachi’s side alleys. (But, be careful because they are only open on weekends and holidays!)
If you’ve done your Japan research, you probably know that dango are a kind of sweet, mochi-esque rice « dumpling » often served on skewers. Mitarashi dango, which are slathered in a sweetened soy sauce syrup, and the multi-colored hanami dango (cherry blossom viewing dango) are especially common.
You can get both mitarashi and hanami dango, as well as other kinds at Gonta.
Their full line up is shown in this menu (I’ll translate below):
- Mitarashi dango ¥90 — Plain dango slathered with sweet soy sauce syrup
- Gohei mochi ¥300 — A hefty, regional treat made from pounded rice, glazed with a sweet sauce, and grilled. Gonta’s version is made with egoma seeds, walnuts, and peanuts.
- Danhei ¥200 — Three smaller dumplings similar to gohei mochi, but with a sesame seed sauce
- Shinshu-hei dango ¥100 — Flat grilled dango with a Shinshu (= Nagano) miso-based sauce
- Pota-pota mochi ¥150 — A flat, round dumpling with a toasty sweet soy sauce and piece of nori seaweed
- Kibi dango ¥70 — Dango made with millet (no sauce)
- Yomogi dango ¥70 — Dango made with yomogi, a kind of Japanese herb (no sauce)
- Also available but not shown on the menu: Hanami dango and anko (sweet bean paste) dango
I haven’t tried all of Gonta’s selection yet, but the past weekend I did try out the danhei, kibi dango, and Shinshu-hei dango. Each had its own interesting texture and flavor, plus the price is quite cheap.
The kibi dango had a pleasantly chewy texture with a subtly sweet taste. As expected, the Shinshu-hei dango had a miso-flavored, yet sweet coating that was slightly toasty due to be grilled. The danhei dumplings had a softer texture (which I believe is from being made with pounded steamed rice) and had a richer sauce that had a nice touch of sesame seed flavor.
Also, since the dango are stuck through skewers, they are easy to carry around while strolling around Nakamachi and Nawate. There are also a couple of small tables to sit at in front of and inside the futon shop that Gonta is attached to (if you happen to need some really nice futon bedding, you can get that there!).
To find Gonta, walk down the alley that’s diagonally across from the Kurassic-kan.