“Autumn chrysanthemums of beautiful color — With dew in my clothes I pluck these flowers,” wrote Tao Yuanming (365 to 427 AD), China’s eminent Taoist nature poet. This nourishing dish heralds the fall, blending the tenderness of tofu with a lingering flower perfume.
Nectar of poets, elixir of nobility, chrysanthemum flower tea and the blossoms themselves have a culinary and medicinal history of over 3,000 years. Fourth of the “Four Gentlemen,” along with with plum blossom, orchid, and bamboo, chrysanthemums symbolize poetic temperament, moral strength, and integrity. Renowned for its beauty and strength, it blooms in late autumn and early winter when all other flowers have died.
Today, few are familiar with the flower’s benefits. Yet, according to Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing or The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica, chrysanthemum is an elixir for longevity and good health. It improves eyesight, mitigates dizziness, inflammation, and other ailments caused by wind, heat and dampness.* Even inhaling its fragrance brings relief from colds and headaches.
This recipe combines the flower with another power food — tofu, believed to be invented by Liu An, the grandson of Han Dynasty Emperor Liu Bang. The outcome is a delicately delicious dish, esthetically appealing and nourishing for fall.
Chinese medicine believes tofu supplements qi, nourishes vitality, clears internal heat, regulates the spleen and stomach, cleanses the large intestine, and removes pathogenic heat from the blood.
Topped with a prawn, this combination offers a yin and yang balance to prepare your body for winter.
Ingredients: (Two servings)
5-7 edible chrysanthemum flowers
approx. 1 ⅓ cups (300g) tofu
approx. ½ cup (100g) salted chicken broth
1 tbsp (15g) soy sauce
⅔ tsp (3g) ketchup,
some corn flour or arrowroot flour (for thickening)
6 shrimps or prawns
half a scallion or spring onion
1. Cut tofu into cubes and top each piece with a prawn.
2. Decorate with chrysanthemum flowers.
3. Steam dish for 5 minutes.
4. Mix chicken broth, soy sauce, ketchup, and corn flour.
5. In a small saucepan, heat mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly.
6. Pour thickened sauce over tofu flower dish.
7. Garnish with finely sliced scallion.
hotography by Hsuyi Shih