Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lychee Time

A large paper shopping bag's worth of red, plump lychee. What a delight! Thank you, Alanna, Wendy and Blake who have carried on their family's tradition of delivering lychee from their Aiea home to us, fortunate recipients. When I think of it I believe this tradition is going on 60 years. It was first started by Blake's parents and has continued on through the next generation.

Lychee and mangoes were the first indication that summer was here when I was growing up. We'd eat green lychee with a slight pink tinge straight off the tree at Judd St. because we couldn't wait for the fruit to ripen. We'd then have an upset stomach for the rest of the afternoon. I'm sure that people on the mainland have stories of doing the same thing as an impatient kid with ripening but still greenish Georgia peaches or pink-red strawberries on the vine.

I'd have to say that lychee is my favorite fruit. The first ripe lychee of the summer may just about be the best. You break the red, spiked, papery peel of the lychee with your thumb. At first the surface of the translucent flesh is shiny. If the lychees have been in the fridge then in just a second a light matte coating of condensation covers the fruit. You take that first bite (juice may drip down your arm) and you receive that distinctive floral taste through your taste buds and your nose. The texture of the tart sweet flesh of the lychee is firm and cold. There's really no fruit like it. Not even the longan, the dragon's eye, compares.

It's a ton of work to upkeep a lychee tree. There's fertilizing, raking the leaves, watering when it's too hot, pruning and finally picking the lychee being careful to take a branch with a bundle on the end so that the lychee will last longer. When our extended family is annually blessed with this gift from the Aiea Vance family it comes fully loaded with their love and our own happy childhood memories.

Lychee is best eaten as is. Blake and Wendy have been to New Orleans. So, I dedicate, in gratitude, this simple dessert recipe to their family. It's a take on Bananas Foster.

Bananas Lychee Vance
Place 2 Tablespoons each of butter and Myers's rum (or lychee vodka) and 8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) of brown sugar in a cold, high-sided pan. Heat on Med. High briefly, just until the sugar melts and starts to caramelize, about 3 minutes, being careful NOT to allow the rum to ignite. Too scary. Add 2 small, sliced, partially ripe but still firm apple bananas, 6 unbroken pecans and 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Cover the bananas and the pecans with the syrup. Take off the heat as soon as the bananas are warmed through. Pour over very cold vanilla ice cream. Makes two servings for dainty, polite people or 1 serving for one hungry, greedy person. Top each serving with a 2 Tablespoon dollop of lychee yogurt (Meadow Gold sells it locally) or whipped cream and four seeded lychees cut in half.


Samantha said...

i am very jealous of you. hardly anyone in norcal knows what lychee is. and most of the time, its in a can, devoid of the popping plump fresh sweetness. btw, i enjoy reading your descriptions..."You take that first bite (juice may drip down your arm) and you receive that distinctive floral taste through your taste buds and your nose." wow.

Thanks for always sharing your aina delights.

foodiewahine said...

Dear Sami,
I felt a bit cruel writing a thorough description of the lychee knowing that it would be read by people who know lychee but could not get their hands on any. Did you know that your father used to send fumigated/sprayed lychee to your grandfather in Stockton at great expense and time to your Dad? He did.
BTW, I just revised the recipe. The first one was too liquid, I wanted it more caramelly.

Anonymous said...

For a long time I didn't like lychee. Or at least I thought I didn't. But then I finally ate one a few years ago and it was really good!

I second Sam about the description-very well written!

Take care,

foodiewahine said...

Dear Marian,
Thank you for your comments about my lychee description. It's such a special treat that I took great pains to describe what that first bite is like after waiting a whole year.

I still drool when I think of the perfect, fragrant white peaches your Mom blanched and peeled for us from Pike's Place. Have never had any better. 'Onolicious.