Watermelon Shiratama Dumplings

When you go to a Japanese beach in summer, it's common to come across people playing the traditional "watermelon smashing" game. It's like a Piñata – a blindfolded person with a long stick tries to find and break the watermelon.

Watermelon Shiratama Dumplings
Photographed by Hideo Sawai

Recipe by
Yoshiharu Doi






Calorie count is per serving.
Excludes time spent chilling syrup.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 watermelon (small, about the size of a bowling ball, diameter of 18-20 cm)
  • [Syrup]

    • 60 g granulated sugar (or sugar)
    • 200 ml water
  • [Shiratama dumplings]

    • 100 g shiratamako (glutinous rice flour)
    • 100 ml water
  • Sugar



Make the syrup: Pour 200 ml of water in a pot and heat over medium heat. Bring just to a simmer, then add the granulated sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool until safe to handle, then place in the refrigerator to chill.


Make the shiratama dumplings: Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Pour the shiratamako into a bowl, then add water a little bit at a time as you knead the dough together by hand.


Add the water in small amounts, rather than all at once, and use your fingertips to work it in and moisten the flour to bring it to the desired firmness. If you find that it is too soft, you can wrap it in a clean cloth and squeeze out excess moisture.


When the dough has largely come together, knead the dough by folding it in half and pressing flat for 4-5 min. It will be a relatively dry dough at first; knead it until it feels like a moist earlobe. Break off pieces of dough and roll into balls 1.5-2 cm in diameter, and place them into the pot of boiling water.


Boil the dumplings for about 2-3 min at medium heat; when they begin to float, boil them for about 1 min longer, then transfer them to cold water. Wash any "sliminess" off their surface and transfer them to a bowl of clean water.


The dumplings are ready when they look nicely swollen from boiling.


Slice the watermelon in half slightly above its equator, to form the "bowl" and the "lid." Insert the knife and press in to the center, then remove and rotate and repeat, to create a zig-zag cut all the way around the watermelon.


Measure the radius of the watermelon. Wrap a towel around the blade of your knife, leaving the blade exposed a from the tip down to a distance equal to the radius of the watermelon, and firmly hold the knife as you press it into the watermelon. Be careful not to cut your hand!


Remove the "lid" and scoop out the fruit from the "bowl," using a melon baller or other scoop about 3 cm wide. Place the scooped-out watermelon in sugar water (add about 5 tbsp of sugar to 600 ml of water).


Soaking the watermelon in sugar water will help prevent the fruit from becoming too watery.


While scooping out the fruit, use a spoon to scrape the surface of the fruit flat 2 or 3 times (reserve this for juice). When you scoop out all of the fruit with your melon baller or scoop, scrape the remaining fruit off the inside of the rind with a spoon for a clean inner surface.


Just before serving, chill the shiratama dumplings in ice water. Remove the seeds from the watermelon balls. Gently drain the excess water from both, then place them alternately in the watermelon "bowl" and pour the syrup over top.


Remove the seeds from the scraped-off watermelon that you couldn't make into balls and blend in a blender for delicious watermelon juice!