Hi, gang. Well, here it is, August 20, and I’m left wondering where the summer has gone. Despite the fact that this was one of the hottest seasons in recorded history—according to some sources, the hottest—I haven’t complained too much because, all too soon, the freezing cold will be upon us. Well, unless you live in a warm climate, which I don’t.
This week, I was on a lychee kick. An Asian market near where I work had bags of beautiful, colorful lychees and I simply had to have some. But other than eating them straight out of hand, I didn’t know what to do with them. They are yet another food item that I did not grow up with and only became familiar with at the end of some Chinese meals. So, I set out to find some good lychee recipes. But first, a little info…
What Are Lychees?
Lychees, also spelled litchis, are native to China. They’re a roundish tropical and subtropical fruit of the soapberry family. The outside rind is pinkish/reddish and is pliable but tough, and has a rough texture. This rind is inedible and must be peeled away. Underneath that rough skin, however, is a soft, juicy flesh that is unlike anything else. It’s sweet, with floral notes and an equally floral perfume, and creamy white with a slight translucence. Despite its softness, it’s also firm, which makes it ideal as both an eating fruit and a cooking fruit (where texture is desired). Beneath the flesh is a dark brown, hard pit, which can be germinated to grow a lychee tree. It’s particularly popular in China, parts of Southeast Asia, and India.
Okay, now that we know what it is, let’s cook with it!
Cooking with Lychees
I found a bunch of very interesting recipes, but my week was busy, so I focused on three: two beverages and a dessert.
The dessert was a Lychee Tapioca Pudding. It called for cooking tapioca pudding and adding the lychees to it. Now, I’m not that familiar with tapioca. Again, it’s not something common in Italian households. And the last time I had it was many moons ago. So, as tapioca puddings go, I’m not quite sure how it came out. It was very thick and sticky, which I don’t think it’s supposed to be. But the flavor was very fruity, although it could have used more sugar. This is it on the right.
The first beverage was Lychee-Coconut Frappe. This is made with coconut cream (not cream of coconut), lime, and, of course, lychees. These are pureed together in a blender, like a smoothie. It was mildly sweet with a decidedly tropical flavor. (It tasted like something I’ve had before, but I still haven’t been able to figure out what that is.) It was reminiscent of a piña colada, so I think adding some rum to it would be fabulous. I’m doing that tomorrow night. Tonight it’s…
Lychees are a great source of vitamin C and other nutrients. According to Nutritiondata.self.com, 1 cup of raw lychees has 226% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, or 135.8 mg (according to the USDA), as well as some calcium, phosphorus, copper, potassium, and B2 (riboflavin). They’re also high in something called polyphenol, which is an antiinflammatory and antioxidant. In China, they’ve been used to treat stomach ailments and as a source of nutrition to newborns; in fact, the Chinese have even used peeled lychees as pacifiers.
Aside from the fresh fruit, lychees are available canned. Like anything else that’s canned, the flavor is inferior to fresh lychees. But since the season for fresh lychees is summer (May, June, July, August), you may want to avail yourself of the canned stuff in other seasons. You can also find lychee juice, syrup, and puree on the market.
I’m going to get more lychees this week while they’re still around and try out some more recipes. Below is the recipe for Lychee Margaritas, from LycheesOnline.com. If you have a great lychee recipe, feel free to share it here. See you next week, everybody.
1 cup lychee juice
1 cup lime juice (about 8 limes)
1 1/3 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
½ cup water
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons of salt
1 ½ cups tequila
1 ½ cups Triple Sec
Combine the juices, water, zests and sugar.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Rub the rims of your glasses with the leftover lime rind or lychees, then dip the rims in salt.
Fill the glasses halfway with ice.
Strain the juice thru a fine sieve into a pitcher or cocktail shaker.
Add the tequila, Triple Sec and crushed ice.
Stir or shake 30 seconds and strain into the glasses.