LET’S DISH! LET’S TALK ABOUT LYCHEES By MaryAnn Miano
Tasting different or unusual fruits and vegetables is one of the more pleasant aspects of life. Some foods are not really so unusual, but perhaps they are not part of the culture one is raised with. It is a true taste sensation to try something you are unfamiliar with eating.
If you’ve never tried a lychee nut before, you are in for a very nice surprise! Don’t worry if you are allergic to nuts, for the lychee is not a nut at all. It is a fruit containing a sweet, vibrant flesh. The fruit itself is covered by a rough rind that has a reddish, strawberry-like color. Once peeled, inside holds the slightly translucent, juicy white flesh of the seed. This part is the edible portion. It is hard to explain the flavor of a lychee, but distinct and aromatic come to mind — similar to the scent of a rose, the lychee’s bouquet is pleasurable but difficult to describe.
The lychee nut fruit has its origins in the southern provinces of China. From China, it spread to other Asian countries such as India and Indonesia, eventually making its way to Hawaii, then cultivated in Florida, and finally in California, in the late 19th century. In Chinese, lychee translates to “gift of a joyful life,” and as anyone who has eaten this produce can attest, the delight derived from the juicy sweetness of this exotic fruit certainly adds to the joi de virve.
In some Chinese districts, the lychee was required as payment for taxes. However, the Chinese consider the lychee fruit a symbol of love and romance. Chinese legend deems that the emperor of the Tang Dynasty dispatched royal guards to travel hundreds of miles to locate lychee trees so that he could offer the delectable fruit to his concubine. And why wouldn’t the lychee be a fruit of love? Lychees offer us much in the way of nutrition. Packed with antioxidants, lychees deliver a powerful punch of Vitamin C and potassium. Studies conducted at universities in China have concluded that flavonoids in the fruit aid in the fight against cancer cells, particularly those of breast cancer. The lychee is part of traditional Chinese medicine. Lychees can be purchased fresh, but they are highly perishable. A better alternative is to buy them canned in syrup. If purchased fresh, look for them with pink shells that are without cracking. The fruits that feel heavier in hand are juiciest. Store them in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator, or try freezing them directly in their shell. They are an ingredient in many Asian sauces and are also found dried in Asian food markets.
Add lychees to savory main dishes such as pork or duck, but add them at the end so as not to overcook them, or enjoy them in desserts such as fruit salads. In China, lychees are served to cleanse the palate after a meal.
Try our recipe of the month for a unique meal!
RECIPE OF THE MONTH
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound)
1 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper
15 fresh lychees peeled and sectioned
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 8 minutes or until browned on both sides and no longer pink in the center, turning after 4 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet; keep warm.
2. Add orange juice, sugar, garlic and rosemary to skillet; bring to boil.
3. Combine cornstarch and wine. Add to skillet; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is clear and thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add lychees; heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally. Serve over chicken.