L is also for Late. I did postpone this due to our hectic schedule, but also because last week, the lychees at the greengrocers were a very sad shade of brown. They’re much better looking this week, very important for their close-up with the camera! This week’s fruit is still pinkish rather than deep red, but much prettier. (I’m only judgemental with my produce mind.)
While the brown lychees looked terrible, I’ve since discovered (thank you Google and Wikipedia) that the red lychee skin turns brown when the fruit is refrigerated. Apparently the flavour of the fruit isn’t affected. There you go, learn something new every day.
The lychee is a tropical/ subtropical fruit and is seasonal. They are highly prized in China, and for one Tang dynasty Emperor, it was the fruit of love. Apparently, Emperor Li Longji had the fruit couriered (by horse) from Southern China, for his favourite concubine Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei).
On a more practical note, lychees are very high in Vitamin C and just 9 of the fruit are enough to meet an adult’s daily RDA.
The fruit was introduced to Australia by Chinese goldminers who came here seeking their fortune. Lychees can also be dried, and in this state, they are referred to as lychee-nuts.
If you’ve never had a lychee, I’d highly recommend one. They pack so much flavour in one little package. The taste is almost overwhelmingly sweet but it is saved by the complex aroma and hint of bitterness. The esteemed Pierre Hermé has worked the flavour into the famous Ispahan macaron. (Can someone pleeaasseeee send me to Paris so I can taste this creation first hand?)
We’d always eaten our lychees fresh or from the can. In fact, many cafes in Malaysia offer lychee “juice” as part of the drinks menu. This is really just the syrup from canned lychees, served on ice, with a couple of the fruit for garnish. Boy did we love it! Sugary and cold and juicy, just the stuff for kids ☺
Speaking of kids, I just had to share this exchange with mini-critic junior (she is 3).
MC junior: What is that?
Shaz: Lychees, they’re yummy.
MC junior: Is that like mousey cheese (aka Swiss Cheese)?
While lychees go very well in desserts, they also lend a burst of sweetness to salads and other savoury dishes. If you don’t like fruit and meat pairings, this isn’t for you. Otherwise, here’s a ridiculously easy recipe that makes it look as if you went to a lot of effort. Perfect for entertaining or just a weeknight treat.
Thai style duck salad with lychees
(inspired by Thai Red Duck Curry with Lychees, or purists might call it a bastardisation. Please don’t get mad, I love Thai flavours, and this is just my ignoramus take on it. Can’t remember if I saw a version of this salad in a magazine somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it. So if you think that credit is due, please let me know so I can fix it).
½ a roast/barbecued duck (available from Chinese BBQ restaurants or Chinatown. Lucky me, I live round the corner from one of these restaurants – which is why I find this dish ridiculously easy. If you have to hunt for the duck, it might make it a little bit harder)
Lychees – according to taste
Asian style salad mix (from the *ahem* supermarket) – make your own with a combination of asian style salad greens, eg: mizuna, baby pak choy etc. Or use your favourite combo of baby salad leaves.
Handful of coriander leaves – picked and cleaned
1 eschallot – finely sliced
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
Juice from 1 large lime
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar (sub with brown sugar) – or to taste
To make dressing, gently warm the fish sauce and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. If needed, add about 1 tablespoon warm water so the fish sauce doesn’t catch and burn. Let cool.
Mix with the other dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust the flavours, it should be sweet, sour, spicy and salty. Remember that the duck will be pretty salty and there will be sweetness from the lychees as well.
Wash and dry salad leaves, set aside. Debone and shred duck meat into small pieces – I find my hands and a pair of kitchen scissors work a treat. (I toss the duck skin in as well for added flavour). Peel, deseed and slice lychees according to taste.
Toss all salad ingredients (including coriander leaves) together with the dressing. Serve immediately.
I know this sounds odd, but I like to serve it with steamed rice, it helps the salad go further. Add an omelette for a complete meal.
If extra crunch is desired, scatter some crushed toasted peanuts over the top of the salad.