Chrysanthemum leaves is called 茼蒿 (tong gao) in Mandarin, Dang Oh in Teochew and Hokkien.
Chrysanthemum is better known for its flower tea. Chrysanthemum tea is an infusion of the petals of a certain type of chrysanthemum flower. It has a cooling effect and is mild enough for children. The tea is drank but the petals are not eaten.
There is a part of the chrysanthemum that is edible: the leaves of the garland chrysanthemum. Note that not all types of chrysanthemum leaves are edible, just garland as the leaves are tender.
My grandmother always have it for the Chinese New Year hot pot. It is supposed to represent something but I cannot remember. It is a Teochew tradition. It is an acquired taste because the leaves are slightly bitter. You know what the old folks say, bitter is good for health. Grandmother loves it because whenever she talks about it, her eyes shines. What is it with old people and bitter food?
Besides hot pot, it can also be added to quick soups. It cooks quite fast, so a quick short boil will do. In fact, it can be added to the soup after the heat has already been turned down and allow to steep.
The Japanese also uses the leaves in tempura. The bitterness disappears when the leaves are dipped in tempura batter and lightly fried.
How to prepare chrysanthemum leaves
Chrysanthemum leaves come in small bunches. There is no need to cut them up. Remove the roots and wash thoroughly to get rid of dirt. Cook them as it is. Like spinach, they can shrink considerably after cooking.
1. Dang oh soup with dried mussels
This clear soup lowers blood cholesterol by working on the liver, kidneys and spleen, the 3 organs that affect the quality of our blood. It is a fairly quick soup. Cook it only when you are ready to eat. Ingredients can be prepared beforehand.
15g dried mussels
200g chrysanthemum leaves
Separate the egg yolk and egg white
Beak the egg white till it is foamy
Cut off the roots of the chrysanthemum leaves and wash the leaves thoroughly
Place the rehydrated mussels into a deep soup pot and add about 1 litre of water
Bring the water and mussels to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. If the mussels were well washed, the soup should be quite clear. If grit float to the surface, skim off with a spoon
Add the chrysanthemum leaves. Don't worry if they seem a lot, the leaves shrink considerably after being cooked.
When the leaves had cooked down, stream the foamy egg white.
Turn off the heat as soon as the egg white are cooked. Do not bring the soup to a roaring boil after adding the egg white as it will become rubbery and dry.
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