Continuing with our homey comfort foods, we present canh tan o (chrysanthemum soup). Our weekday Vietnamese meal typically has a main meat/fish dish, a vegetable side, and soup. Edible Garland Chrysanthemum or tan o or cai cuc (tangho in Chinese and shingiku in Japanese) has a delicious sweetness and tinge of bitterness that we love. It’s often used in Asian cuisine as the main vegetable in stir fries, hotpots, and soups. You can easily find this at your Asian grocery store. Avoid the chysanthemum with yellow leaves. Plus, it contains compounds that may prevent cardiac and vascular diseases, one of the top killers in America.
Classically, this soup is accompanied with fish paste balls with dill. For the broth, you can use water, chicken stock, or combination of both. It’s so simple to prepare and can easily be made in about 20 minutes or less.
1 bunch of tan o (cut into 3-4 inch length–stems are edible, but we discard the first inch or so)
about 2.5-3 qts of water/chicken stock or combination of
1 container of fish paste, defrosted or about 1/2 lb fresh fish paste
1 bunch of dill, coarsely chopped
1 tbs pepper
1/2 ts fish sauce
Often times, the fish paste is already seasoned. Check the packaging or ask your Asian grocer if the fresh fish paste is seasoned. If already seasoned, we just add about another 1/2 ts of fish sauce and fresh cracked pepper and dill and mix well and set aside. If it’s not seasoned, we’ll add about 1 tbs of fish sauce.
Bring a medium stock pot of water/broth to boil. Using a tablespoon, scoop out balls of fish paste into the pot. Keeping the spoon wet will help with the stickiness. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes and reduce heat to medium low. Add the tan o and cook for about another 1 minute and take off heat. It doesn’t take very long for the chrysanthemum to cook and you don’t want it too mushy. Season with salt to taste.
The broth will be infused with the wonderful fragrance of chrysanthemum. The dill with fish paste is also a great flavor combination. Enjoy with rice and a meat/fish dish such as ca kho to ( caramelized braised fish in clay pot) or thit kho.
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