Sata andagi, also known as koban age, is known throughout Japanese and Okinawan festivals alike as a favorite treat for kids and adults to enjoy. Deep fried, sweet, and crunchy, the Okinawan-style doughnuts melted its way into our hearts.
But, the name of andagi makes it quite curious: why is also known as koban age, literally meaning “fried gold coin”? When was the andagi created? Just like with every cultural food, there is a story behind it:
Legend says that a Ryukyuan King loved a fair maiden that did not reciprocate his love, but loved a Samurai boy instead. Angered, the Ryukyuan King used his powers to banish the Samurai boy in spite.
“You are to leave the Ryukyu Island and never return!” The king made arrangements to take the poor Samurai boy to a faraway land, where he would be unable to see his family or friends ever again.
Hearing the woeful sentencing, the Samurai boy’s mother began to furiously prepare sata andagi, unbeknownst to the Samurai boy’s knowledge. Through the days and nights, the Samurai boy’s mother made ball after ball of the delicious doughnut, except it was for a different purpose than eating– with the gold coins she had saved, she carefully inserted each into the dough balls and fried them. Thus, the andagi became koban age.
When the time came for the Samurai boy to depart, she ran to the dock and pleaded with the guards that she would like to give a parting gift to her son since she would never see him again. The kind-hearted guards decided that the home treats would be of no harm, and granted her access. Embracing her boy one last time, she handed the koban age to her son, who was pleasantly surprised, and left.
As the boat sailed off to the faraway land, the Samurai boy took one sata andagi (koban age) and bit into it. He was drawn aback as the middle was hard, and upon further inspection, found that each andagi contained a koban— a gold coin. With tears rolling down his face, he looked towards the land he once lived in and thanked his mother for her kindness. Because of her compassionate act, he was able to live a comfortable life to the end.
To recap, sata andagi, or koban age, is not just a treat that is made of egg, flour, and sugar– it is a cultural symbol, a significant food item whose story is barely known. The next time you eat a sata andagi, make sure not to bite too fast– you might have a koban inside there!
To make your own Sata Andagi, click the link!