Saturday, 16 March 2013

Stalking the Flowerbeds

Brodo di Chrysanthemo, Uovo & Pomodorini con Tagliatelle di Riso
Chrysanthemum, Egg-Flower & Tomato Soup with Rice Noodles

Something I would never have imagined eating would have been the stalks of chyrsanthemums... I for one had never heard of such a thing! And yet the lovely lady at the market hall, who usually manages to surprise me with strange and exotic Asian ingredients absolutely outdid herself today with this one! She told me they could be used to make a soup with... and also handed me a little bunch for free, just to test them! How kind, as well as how exiting!

She told me that the flavor was somewhat similar to that of arugula... but very individual, so I took a little nibble right then and there. And yes it did have that slightly peppery flavor but of course also a hint of the scent of the blossoms we are all familiar with... although these were purely the stalks and leaves. I took a very quick glance at what the internet said and was very surprised that many soups are made with chrysanthemums in Asia, particularly in Vietnam. And so I set about making a very simple soup of my own, just to get a feel for the flavor... I was very eager to find out!

I decided to keep things simple and to use a light chicken broth as the base for my experiment- and fortunately I had some frozen... I was boiling up chicken quite a bit during my recent fling with the flu! I brought the broth to the boil and added finely chopped ginger and a little garlic. I let it simmer for 5 minutes or so and then added the finely chopped chrysanthemum stalks. After 5 minutes or so, I added a small handful of rice noodles, which normally should be soaked before cooking, but in this case I popped them straight in, so that the starchiness of the noodles would also slightly thicken the soup.

I seasoned the broth with light soy sauce, pepper, a half teaspoon of 5 spice powder and a little splash of fish sauce... sounds strange but tastes sooo good in combination! Next, I quickly beat an egg together in a cup and then, stirring all the time, drizzled the beaten egg into the soup... creating the delicate and mild "egg flower" effect- rather fitting for this soup of flower stalks I would say!

I decided to add just a couple of sliced cherry tomato right at the end, as I figured that it would go well with the slightly arugula-like flavor- and it was indeed a nice, fresh touch as well as a pretty addition of color! And with just a sprinkle of chili flakes, my strangest soup yet was complete!

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