From mid-September through late November, large bright-yellow chrysanthemums bloom throughout most of Japan. They’re an impressive sight inspiring all sorts of poetic images: Autumnal Sentiment Soup is my personal interpretation of nature’s glory. This delicate soup could herald the start of a dinner featuring a simple roasted-meat or grilled-fish entrée.
Blanch the green parts of the scallions in boiling water just for a few seconds to make them pliable. Drain and cool at once in cold water, then remove them and pat dry. Select eight of the longest and strongest of the green stalks and use one for tying each flower (you should have one or two extra stalks in case a first effort tears).
Briefly rinse the enokidaké mushrooms under cold water and shake dry. Divide the mushrooms into eight parts. Don’t trim the roots.
Lay the omelets on a dry board and cut them in half; set aside seven halves, keeping a single sheet on the board. Fold the sheet in half, bringing the bottom edge to meet flush with the top. Make many shallow slits on this folded edge. Lay one bunch of enokidaké mushrooms so that the knobs are just below the slit edge of the omelet. Roll the omelet snugly around the mushrooms and tie it up with a scallion “string”（use a double knot if possible). Trim off the mushroom stems so that they’re flush with the bottom edge of the omelet. Stand up the chrysanthemum in the bottom of a shallow bowl (a smooth, dark surface makes a particularly stunning backdrop). Repeat this procedure to make seven more flowers.
Wash the greens carefully and divide them into eight bunches, with the stems of all running in the same direction. Tie the stems of each bunch with kitchen twine. Bring a pot with several quarts of salted water to a rolling boil. With tongs, dip the greens in the water until just wilted and bright green (you may wish to leave chard in the water a bit longer before removing). Remove the greens to a bowl of cold water. Squeeze out all excess water when the greens are cool enough to handle. Trim off the twine and stems, and arrange one bunch of greens in each bowl, swerving to the right of each flower.
Bring the chicken stock to a boil and season with the rice wine and light soy sauce. Remove the stock from the heat and sprinkle the fish flakes over the surface. Let the stock stand for 2–3 minutes before stirring it up and pouring it through a cloth- or paper-lined strainer or colander into a measuring cup. Gently pour or ladle the seasoned stock around the flowers in each bowl so that the petals float, barely suspended in the broth. Serve at once.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.