Did you know that chrysanthemum leaves are edible? Probably it’s not the case of every variety, but Garland Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium), aka crown daisy (called shungiku in Japanese and sukgat in Korean) is – according to Wikipedia – eaten not only in Japan and Korea, but also in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and even Crete! The good news for all the gardeners is that this plant can be sowed in both spring and autumn. Garland chrysanthemum is also one of the healthier herbs: it contains minerals, vitamins, potassium and antioxidants, so it’s worth playing with both in the garden and in the kitchen. Until this year I had no idea chrysanthemum leaves could be edible, not to mention tasting them, so growing garland chrysanthemum on my balcony meant another big culinary adventure.
In one of my recent posts I have mentioned big harvests of some herbs I grow on my balcony. First it was Thai basil (I used it to prepare Teriyaki Pork Rolls) and now, coming back from holidays, I found a huge amount of edible chrysanthemum begging to be picked. I bought it last year in Japan and first sowed it in spring. I was pleasantly surprised to learn its smell was not as strong as I had imagined and, most of all, it wasn’t bitter at all (I don’t know why but I imagined chrysanthemum leaves bitter).
I had time to experiment with it in several different dishes and this Japanese egg custard, called chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) is one of my favourite finds. Traditional version of chawanmushi contains several precise ingredients and always mistuba leaves, but I find it extremely versatile and am always tempted to test new ingredients. Chicken breast is my favourite “filler” and here, paired with shungiku leaves and Hungarian yellow sweet pepper, it gave a delicate, but very interesting taste results. My basic custard recipe is based on Shizuo Tsuji’s recipe from “The Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art”, but the “filling” ingredients vary all the time.
You might also like these versions of chawan mushi:
TIPS: Even though chawan mushi is easier to prepare in a steamer, Shizuo Tsuji’s suggestion to use a water bath in the oven gives excellent results. Actually this is the way I prepare it because the steamer plate in my rice cooker is too low for my heatproof cups.
If you don’t have a nearby Japanese grocery shop, individual, but high heatproof cups may be difficult to get. I have found very good ones at IKEA (even though without lids), but as soon as I got hold of the beautiful Japanese chawan mushi cups you see above, I stopped using the old ones.
individual heatproof cups (at least 6 cm high, mine were 6,5 cm high,with a 7,5 cm diameter)
Preparation: 45 minutes
Ingredients (4 portions):
2-3 sweet peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small chicken breasts
Garland crhrysanthemum leaves (12 – 16, depending on their size)
1 tablespoon sake
300 ml dashi (Japanese stock) or chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sake or mirin (with mirin the custard will be slightly sweetish)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Preheat the oven to 220°C (or prepare your steamer).
Cut up the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, combine with sake and sprinkle with a bit of salt.
Boil a lot of water and prepare a big baking dish at least as high as the heatproof cups.
Mix the eggs very delicately in a bowl. In another bowl combine the dashi (or chicken stock), salt (it depends on how salty your stock is), sake/mirin and soy sauce. Pour the stock mixture over the eggs and stir well, without beating.
Strain the chicken pieces. Divide them, sweet peppers and half of the chrysanthemum leaves equally into four heatproof cups.
Put the remaining chrysanthemum leaves on top (choose the nicest ones).
Strain the custard mixture and pour into the garnished cups.
Cover the cups with aluminium foil or the lids if you have special cups with lids.
If you use the oven, place the cups in a big baking dish. Fill the dish with hot water (not boiling). The water should arrive up till 3/4 of the cups’ height.
Put the dish in the oven and let the custards bake for 30 minutes.
If you use a steamer, steam for about 20 minutes.
Serve hot or cold with bread/toast for breakfast, with a salad for a lunch, as a snack or as a starter.
You may serve it with soy sauce. Personally I think it is not necessary.
Even though the eggs’ mixture sets during the cooking process, vegetables might release juices, so think about putting a spoon on the table!