Lychee Love (Sugar High Friday #21)

July 11th, 2006

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Although I grew up with a host of Asian fruits in my house, from persimmons to longans, it did take me a while to warm up to lychees.  In their hard, forbiddingly pointy shells, they looked like miniature cousins of the fearsome durian. And the soft white fruit inside was jelly-like and gushy, with a disturbing resemblance to our ocular organs (in fact, longans, which look quite similar to lychees, are named so because the word means "dragon eye" in Chinese).

Fortunately, I managed to overcome this prejudice and discover that lychees are a delicious fruit, delicately sweet and fabulously fragrant, like most tropical fruits. One of my favorite lipglosses is probably so beloved because it smells like lychees – although fortunately for me, it doesn’t taste anything like it.

Lychees pair well with a host of tropical and spicy flavors, such as coconut, lime, and ginger, providing a sweet counterpoint to the other notes.  As the lucky recipient of some fresh lychees last week, I found a couple of ways to make use of these little gems, and create some submissions for this month’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by the delicious life.

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Strawberry Coconut Tapioca with Lychee Sorbet

Tapioca pearls are a very popular component of Asian desserts, from red bean and sesame sweet soups to those increasingly ubiquitous pearl tea drinks – they add thickness and textural interest without interfering with the flavors. In this Asian version of tapioca pudding, tapioca pearls are mixed with coconut milk, chilled, and poured atop a fresh strawberry pureé. Swirled together with a spoon, they form a rich, creamy dessert that is both elegant and comforting. The lychee sorbet adds a crisp, sweet note in contrast to the tartness of the strawberries and the voluptuousness of the coconut. I will admit that this dessert was partially inspired by one of the latest drinks at Tapioca-X(a pearl tea drink chain) – coconut and strawberry pearl milk tea!

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Tribute to Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan

And halfway across the world, a completely different set of flavors to showcase the versatility of the lychee.  Pierre Hermé’s famous combination of raspberry, rose, and lychee has been featured in dozens of ways, from the original macaron to the Miss Gla’Gla – the fanciest ice cream bar imaginable. Here, a trio of sorbets in those three flavors, accompanied with a rose macaron for an ice cream sundae in all my favorite colors! While Hermé’s recipe for the rose buttercream in his Ispahan calls for Sevarome rose paste, I found that using rose syrup gives a intensely rose flavor also, as well as imparting a delicate pink color to the sorbet – no other coloring needed!  The mingling scents of rose and lychee make this dessert a feast for all the senses.

And would you believe I got rose petals for the dessert and then forgot to put them on? Now I’ll have my boyfriend coming home and wondering why there are red roses on the table and who they’re from!

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • carolg@PB #1

    Very evocative post Anita :)
    You reminded me of how much I treasured eating lichees as a kid. The hard brittle shell that seemed almost like a crab shell to me. The soft white fruit inside & than that red stone/pit – all those different textures in one little fruit! A bank of lychees surprised me the other day in Trader Joe’s. I hesitated while rushing to get my lunch before the lines got wacko. I’ll go back and get some
    Thanks for reminding me :)

  • jenjen #2

    I agree, Lychees have a sort of off-putting appearance and I remember being turned off by them as a child. I am glad I overcame this disgust. Your sorbet looks amazing….!
    I really need to get myself an ice cream churner.

  • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande #3

    You will have to have convinced me because like you, i am hesitant about lychees. I still have not overcome my view on them. I should try your last recipe, which just sounds very tasty

  • gattina #4

    oh your dessert has gorgeous colors! And I like your idea of using tapioca pearls!
    Some people said lychee tastes exactly like rose water, what do you think?

  • Kat #5

    My grandma used to have a couple of lychee trees in her backyard. Brings back some nice memories! Your dessert looks gorgeous!

  • Tea #6

    These look beautiful! Lychee sorbet, especially, sounds delicious.

    I like lychees, though I first had them as an adult. I can imagine they would not have been a favorite had my first encounter been as a child. These days I see them most in drinks–the lychee-tini that seems to be everywhere.

  • Foodtalker #7

    Thank you so much for your lovely recipes. I actually attempted to make a version of your Strawberry Coconut Tapioca. And I didn’t have lychee sorbet so I used Lichido Liqueur instead (I just blended it with ice). It was by far the most delicious dessert I have ever tasted. And it got me a bit tipsy too :-). Now on to the Ispahan recipe…wish me luck.

  • shuna fish lydon #8

    I bought some fantastic lychees at Monterey market a few weeks ago. My first experience was with canned ones, but I prefer them raw.

    Many years ago i was crazy enough to make fresh lychee sorbet at a fancy restaurant. The prep took hours and hours and I came away with just enough to churn: enough for maybe 10 orders! Those people were sooooo lucky.

  • J #9

    hi anita, gorgeous post, as always…the ispahan sundae, of course, has me weeping at its sheer beauty. whatever the cause of its magic, the combination of rose, raspberry and lychee simply has me swooning be it in the form of a macaron or an ice cream sandwich. beautiful!

  • Mary #10

    Lychees are one of my favorite fruits. Up until my teen years, I had only eaten canned lychees. But the fragrance of a fresh lychee cannot be matched! I like longans too but have yet to try a fresh one.

    Your sorbets sound so refreshing. Perfect for beating the heat we’ve been having here in SF.

  • Ivonne #11

    Oh, well done, Anita! Well done!

    I was first introduced to lychees by a woman at another place that I worked. I was instantly smitten with them. But I’m sad to say that I don’t try them often enough.

    Your sorbet is mouth-watering and just what I could use right now on this hot, humid Toronto summer day!

  • eggy #12

    Lychees are the most delicious fruit and my absolute favourites. The Ispahan sundae ideas is brilliant.

  • Anita #13

    Carol,
    Your memories of lychees sound just luscious too!

    Jenjen,
    I completely support any ice-cream maker purchases you make:)

    Bea,
    If you still can’t eat them straight, I encourage you to try them in a dessert – I think you’ll like the taste!

    Gattina,
    Hmm, I never thought of lychees tasting like roses – they are very sweet and almost floral, though, maybe that’s why Herme paired them with roses!

    Kat,
    Thank you! So lucky that you could get lychees from your grandma’s backyard!

    Tea,
    You’re right – they do have a more “adult” taste – perhaps why they go so well in a martini:)

    Foodtalker,
    Your version sounds delicious. Hope you like the other combination too!

    Shuna,
    Fresh lychees don’t yield much, do they? I can’t imagine how many I would need to make dessert for a restaurant. Your customers were lucky indeed!

    J,
    It’s hard to go wrong with Herme, isn’t it?:)Thanks for your compliment!

    Mary,
    I was so glad to have all that ice cream when that heat wave hit! Ice cream weather for sure!

    Ivonne,
    It seems we share a fondness for the same remedy for hot days! Heat has broken here, hope it’s cooler for you too!

    Eggy,
    Thank you! So many fans of lychees, I’m glad I got over my dislike of them – it would have been embarassing!

  • Mab #14

    Some of the lychee fruits HAVE tasted exactly like rose water.

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