The first time I ever heard of lychee was because it was an ingredient in a martini. The thought of a mysterious element in my drink didn’t sit well with me, but on a whim my friend decided to give it a try because of the rave reviews from the bartender. Let’s just say it was a nice introduction for me to start incessant Google stalking about what this “lychee” was and please tell me how I can get more of it. (Thank God for the invention of the iPhone that allows me to have internet access on tropical fruits I have never heard of while in the bar).
I was surprised to find out that the lovely lychee has quite the reputation for being a delicate and sought after fruit with a perfume flavor to rant about. Lychees were treasured by Chinese royalty for thousands of years and have been slowly making their debut into Western kitchens because of their exotic sweetness. Don’t live in an arm’s reach of China? Not to fret. If you can’t make it to Southeast Asia (or the special area of Chinatown) to partake in the fresh bundles of lychee you can still experience the exotic treasure by purchasing the fruit from a farmers market or by indulging in the canned version at your local grocery store when fresh isn’t an option.
The second shocker from my bar time research (nerd much?) was a “what the…???” moment. The delicious cocktail mix in came from that crazy looking fruit? The luscious lychee is protected by a red leather-like skin that looks like a strawberry gone wrong. But inside the bumpy exterior is the creamy white flesh that combines the flavors and texture of a grape and a pear into heavenly, juicy deliciousness. The lychee does have a slight sweetness, but the tropical floral notes make it a perfectly balanced fruit choice. I can see why bartenders want to make drinks out of this!
You should be able to easily peel the skin off with your fingernail or a knife, but be sure to remove the seed because when it is bitten into it is slightly poisonous. We wouldn’t want you getting sick on your first lychee experience, so steer clear! You can freeze the lychee in its rind and remove it about 30 minutes before you are ready to use it. Also, don’t worry if there is a little browning as the flavor is the same when made into a puree or a sauce (think avocado and still dive in).
There is no doubt that any meal or drink that includes the word lychee will automatically become more luxurious. I mean, think about it, tuna with orange sauce or lychee grilled tuna…doesn’t it just roll off your tongue? Anyway, to get some lychee “up in here” (or is it up in huuur??) start with these:
- Bring some sweetness to your rice dish with lychee fried rice.
- Revamp your definition of spring rolls with this lychee and mango fruit version.
- Use lychee juice in a breakfast smoothie that you will want to roll out of bed for.
- Step into an unknown flavor profile by cooking up some lychee sauce to go with fish (or chicken!) to add a hint of tropical sweetness to a main meal.
- If you really want to kick your feet up to this spring weather try a simple lychee Bellini (but be sure you are on patio with plenty of time to relax for this one).
Nature’s sweet treat is only 6 calories (per one lychee). Plus, the fruit is a good source of vitamin C and other minerals like copper, phosphorus and potassium. They even have 2 grams of protein and fiber per cup. This is a relief to know when licking your plate of lychee sauce. No judgment from me…swear!
Strange ingredients also prove to be the most fun for your food repertoire, so don’t avoid them! Definitely get in the mood for lychee for some delectable noshing.
Have you ever eaten lychee? Comment on your taste bud reactions below!