Feb 10, 2012

The Exotic Fruit - Lychee

Hawaiian Lychee
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Before moving to Hawaii, I had only tasted lychee from a can, however like most things out of a can, fresh is usually better. Peeled, seeded lychees have been canned in heavy sugar syrup and exported from China, Thailand and India for many years. Lychee is native to southern China and is the leading center of lychee production. The first lychee plant brought to Hawaii was imported from China in 1873 by Mr. Ching Chock and planted on Oahu. Lychee is a slow growing, long-lived, subtropical evergreen tree growing to 40 feet in height. They are a favorite home garden tree in Hawaii, since there is hardly a more attractive ornamental fruit tree than a lychee tree heavily laden with clusters of bright red fruits. Although a few commercial lychee orchards have been planted in Hawaii, they are erratic in bearing habit and productivity.

This exotic fruit has become increasingly popular in the last few years–showing up in juices and energy drinks, on restaurant menus and mixed in martinis. But the best way to eat the lychee is fresh, out of hand. The warty skinned, strawberry-red fruit is easily peeled revealing a clear, delicious juice. Surrounding a rather large dark brown seed is the translucent-white flesh of the lychee. After the seed is removed, the flesh is usually stuffed with a variety of things, such as cottage cheese, or a blend of cream cheese and mayonnaise, or stuffed with pecan meats, and garnished with whipped cream. Lychee is also used in ice cream and sherbets. They can be spiced or pickled, or made into sauce, preserves or wine. The flesh can be dried and eaten like raisins. Chinese people enjoy using the dried flesh in their tea as a sweetener in place of sugar. Also honey is harvested from hives near lychee trees. It is light amber in color, of the highest quality, with a rich, delicious flavor like that of the juice which leaks when the fruit is peeled.

Lychee, like citrus fruits, is an excellent source of vitamin C and B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin and folates. They are low in calories, contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, but are rich in dietary fiber which, can be very important for individuals who are concerned about their excess body weight. As a matter of fact, companies are launching an ad campaign about the "Lichi Super Fruit Diet". If you have never tried fresh lychee, do yourself a favor and seek them out, they are much better than a diet pill.

Note: If you can't find canned lychee in your grocery store, there are several places to order online if you do a search. This particular site, eFoodDepot.com offers groceries from all over the world at reasonable prices and flat rate shipping! You can find canned Thailand lychee under "Canned & Jarred foods" at: http://www.efooddepot.com/search/quick2.asp


Lychee Sunrise Cocktail
1, 20 ounce can lychee, drained
2 cups orange juice
grenadine syrup
2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup gin or vodka
12 ice cubes
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Divide orange juice evenly between 4 large glasses. Pour a few drops of grenadine into juice; stir once to give marbled effect. Blend or process lychees, sugar, gin, ice and lime juice until smooth. Carefully pour lychee mixture over orange juice. Makes 4 servings.

Tropical Heaven
This recipe starts by sauteing bananas in butter and sugar, then adding mango, passion fruit, lychee and grated coconut to create a heavenly tropical dessert.

2 medium ripe bananas
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, divided
pulp of 3 fresh passion fruit
6 fresh lychees, peeled, pit removed
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sweeten coconut, grated
half a mango, sliced

Peel and slice banana, at an angle, into 1/4 inch slices. Saute in butter for 1 minute until golden. Add half the sugar and lower heat. Saute for 2 more minutes until the bananas are well caramelized. Cut passion fruit in half and spoon out the seeds and juice into a small bowl. Add the lychee, water and the remaining sugar. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar. To serve, arrange the bananas and mango slices around the outside of two plates. Place the lychees in the center and top them with the grated coconut. Pour the passion fruit juice around and over the bananas and serve. Makes 2 servings.

Lychee Ice
2, 20 ounce cans lychee
juice of one fresh lime
3/4 cup powdered sugar
fresh mango or papaya slices

Remove juice from canned lychees (makes a great drink). Place the lychee flesh in blender with lime juice and powdered sugar. Process until smooth. Pour into a container suitable for the freezer, freeze until slushy, then beat well. Repeat this twice. Freeze for several hours until solid. Serve in small scoops with slices of fresh mango or papaya. Makes 6 servings.

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