Chrysanthemum Douhua

One of my earliest food memories was going to dim sum with my parents on Sundays. We would be served chrysanthemum tea with everything we ate and we would usually finish off a meal of spareribs, sticky rice, and dumplings and fried radish cakes with egg tarts and a sweet tofu called douhua. Douhua, which literally translates to tofu flower, is a dessert that consists of globs of silken tofu swimming in a sweet syrup. The tofu, being so mild in flavor, practically soaks up the syrup it is immersed in, giving it a nutty, sweet flavor, while retaining this custardy, silky texture. I wanted to combine that with chrysanthemum tea specifically because those are two very strong food and flavor memories that really rounded out my childhood dim sum experience. Luckily, chrysanthemum tea is really easy to buy, and it can be used to make a really delicious syrup, so it works organically with the concept of douhua. Coincidentally, chrysanthemum plays another role in this dessert, in the way that the tofu is prepared and served.

There has been a fairly trendy and popular way to serve tofu, either called a tofu lily, hydrangea tofu, or even chrysanthemum tofu. Whatever you want to call it, it is basically tofu that has been cross-hatched to hell and back(though not cutting all the way through it so that it is held together at the base), resulting in it blossoming and acting like a flower when you submerge it into a liquid. Normally I have seen this kind of tofu served in a savory broth, but in this case, I wanted to use it in a douhua dessert! For the syrup that we are using, I mentioned using chrysanthemum tea. I also infused the tea with ginger to give it a warming sensation, and also since the heat from ginger tones down the cloyingly sweet nature of sweetened chrysanthemum tea. If you are using unsweetened tea, you can add either palm sugar or golden syrup(I personally used golden syrup since I had an abundance of it in my fridge) to sweeten it and add more floral notes as well! To finish my literal and figurative tofu flower, we have some sago pearls, which gives the dessert a sea anemone meets sea flower aesthetic that I just find to be really fun! This dessert is also 100% gluten-free and vegan, and fairly easy to make!

I would say the tricky part is cutting the tofu,, though I recommend using wetted paper towels so that you don’t accidentally cut all the way through the tofu by mistake! Also be sure to use silken tofu, as firm tofu would not have that “swaying flower” effect when you immerse it into the syrup. That and firm tofu tends to have more savory qualities to it flavor-wise that does not translate well in dessert. Overall I would give this dessert a 5/10 in terms of difficulty, but a 10/10 in terms of nostalgia and tastiness. The dessert would run the risk of being too simple, but the ginger and chrysanthemum really help to add some complexity to the syrup, while the sago adds a contrasting texture from the sweet, silky tofu! Optionally, you can garnish the dessert with edible flower petals and nasturtiums, or even pour the syrup tableside for some fun theatrics! I personally just love seeing the tofu flower sway in the syrup as you place a spoon to it!

For the chrysanthemum syrup:
2oz fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
16oz chrysanthemum tea, sweetened(if unsweetened, add in 1/4 cup palm sugar or golden syrup)
a pinch of salt

In a pot, heat up all of the ingredients until brought to a simmer. Allow the syrup to cool down completely before straining out the ginger. Reheat the syrup when it is time to plate.

For the sago:
3 tbsp sago pearls
1 cup water, in two parts
1/2 cup chrysanthemum syrup

In a pot, bring 1 part of water to a boil. Boil the sago pearls on medium heat, while covered, for 5-6 minutes – the pearls should be completely translucent. Strain out the sago and rinse thoroughly – this will help to remove any excess starch or slime. Store the sago in 1/2 cup of the chrysanthemum syrup and the remaining part of water at refrigerating them together.

For the tofu flower:
16oz silken tofu

Cut the tofu using a 2-inch ring mold. Using folded wet paper towels as a guide, cross hatch-cut the tofu using a knife. Carefully transfer the tofu onto a spatula, while still in the ring mold, and transfer that into a bowl with water to help release the tofu flower. Fill the bowl about halfway full with the warm syrup first, then place in the tofu flower. Add in enough sago so that the liquid rises past the tofu. Serve right away!

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