30 June, 2007

Cockroach Dumplings (Gokiburi Dango)

This being the rainy season, people here are starting to feel the heat. It's not raining all the time; we even have sunny days but the humidity is high so it feels much hotter. I tell my students that the rainy season is the time that humans hate but cockroaches love. They like humidity, heat and moisture so it's at this time that they are in their heydey, doing what cockroaches, and for that matter people, love to do -- eat, drink and make babies. I understand their enthusiasm but that doesn't mean I want to invite the little guys to my house for dinner. I guess you don't either, which makes the cockroach perhaps the most universally uninvited guest.

To discourage cockroaches at your table, you can do a few things other then get out the big spray can of that nasty poison. One thing to do is lower the humidity in your home, either by installing a dehumidifier or putting your air conditioner on the dry (ドライ)setting. You'll also feel a lot cooler as the room dries out.

Since they also don't like wind or coolness both a fan and the air conditioner will help discourage them.

They are usually found near sources of food and moisture, which makes the kitchen a cockroach Disneyland, so it's great if you can remove sources of these. Personally, living in an old Japanese house surrounded with sources of moisture, it's not so easy. If you live in a new apartment it might be more doable but it means you absolutely can't leave any food around, even bags of flour in the cupboard, a sugar bowl, dirty dishes, a cat or dog bowl, maybe even house plants. And your garbage can't be exposed at all. A cockroach can pass through a crack the width of a credit card. Since roaches can live without food for a month and without water for at least a week, hold their breath for forty minutes, live without a head for seven days, and even survive a thermal nuclear bomb, you can see that they are a little hard to dis-invite and probably will be here long after we have passed the way of the Dinosaurs. Might be a little harder to make a living without us around as chefs, but I'm sure they'll find a way.

So, what to do? You really don't want to be sitting down to a scrumptious meal only to be startled into jumping up and choking on your dinner by a big cockroach thinking you must have put out a plate for him too. One thing about cockroaches, they always assume they're invited.

Well the Ingenious Japanese Housewife (Super JH), superhero extraordinaire, has come up to the rescue with a cutely-named petite little repast known as the Cockroach dumpling or Gokiburi dango. Now dumplings here are usually sweet rice balls most often seen on a skewer in a pretty coloured trio, covered with a sweet sauce and loved by kids and grown-up kids alike. They even have a song about them, that if you live in Japan I can guarantee you have heard.

Back to Super JH and the dango. In this case, the dumpling has a not-so-nice surprise. It contains borax (hosan) which when it is ingested foams up and unfortunately ends the visitor-in-question's period of stay. You understand that this will not affect all the cousins outdoors scratching around for a living like good honest cockroaches should. Only the uninvited guests.

Make up a batch of these and put them around your house in corners of the kitchen, near moisture sources, and say good-bye to those freeloaders forever. You can ask for hosan at any drugstore. If you have pets, however, you might need to rig up a way for the cockroaches to get in so the pets can't eat it. Think something with slits the size of credit cards. Maybe a shoe box?

Mrs. T's Cockroach Dumplings

500g (hosan) boric acid
400 g
onion grated
150 g flour
3 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons sugar

Mix them all to make the dumplings.

My Note: This makes a huge recipe; you can easily halve it and still have enough for a big house. Many people make a little round or oval-shaped dish of aluminum foil and fill it with the mixture rather than making balls. This has the advantage of protecting the floor and maybe lasting longer. These are effective for at least 6 months, enough to get you through this cockroach season.


Julia said...

uuw, i hope i won't need it, but thanks for the recipe! my neighbor told me i better get one of those nasty sprays but i hesitated, because i don't like that chemical stuff and i haven't seen a cockroach here in the house so far. if one of those uninvited visitors comes by, i will definitly rather try your recipe.

vegetablej said...

Gambatte! And definitely stay away from those poison sprays.

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for your post.

I have a question. Is there a place in which I could buy those Cockroach Dumplings ready to use ?

And also, what is the "normal" size of a Japanese Cockroach ?

This morning I saw a Cockroach of the size of my hand. That was true or was an exaggeration due to my imagination.



vegetablej said...


Not that I know of, but there might be. Usually this is not the season for cockroaches in Japan, so I'm surprised you saw one.

No, they're not as big as your hand. That might just be the panic magnifying glasses. They are big, though, maybe as big as 1/6 of a small egg.

You might be able to easily find the cockroach hotels, little boxes which trap them, at any supermarket, though they won't be as easy to find out of season. Just look for the pictures of roaches on the cover, if you have any trouble reading.

Alternatively, you could try the old sneaker method.

Good luck, and believe me, though you may not grow to love them, you will get used to them if you stay.