July 20, 2006

before next June comes and goes...

I don't know about where you live, but in Tokyo, fresh lychee hits store shelves early June and stays around for a short few weeks. That's when I'd be too busy devouring them as much as I could to do a post (reasonably) in time... that's what happened last year, and again this year, well almost. The photo above was taken a year ago with a (basically) broken Nikon CoolPix2500. A decent job though.

Like many other fresh fruits, lychee should be eaten as is to enjoy its flavor at its best. Like many other fruits though, I am tempted to add little twists to this oriental beauty, to enjoy a little difference while attempting to bring out its flavor even further.

Last June, I tried and made Lychee in Cider Jello, Lychee and Grapefruit Crumble, and Ginger Panna Cotta with Lychee Syrup, all of which turned out pleasantly good. Still, I wasn't quite convinced that they were indeed better than the fresh fruit eaten plain; I mean, if it tastes better fresh out of the shell, why bother to add something more?

Even so, I decided to do something with lychee when they appeared storefront again this past June. This time, I went for something simple and light, ones that would showcase the fruit's fragrant and succulent flesh, with a little help of other players to complement, not interfere with, its beauties.

First thing I laied my hand on was Coconut Milk Pudding with Lychee, Mango and Chili. I haven't got any particular recipe to cite, but sort of came up with it... I knew both mangoes and coconuts are a good match with lychee, and I wanted some cool bites as it was very warm and wet when I made it. There weren't much to do to make this exotic fruit bowl; lychee nuts were shelled, a mango was peeled, stoned and cubed, and even coconut milk pudding was easy to prepare - all you need is to add some sugar to coconut milk and jell it with gelatin.

While plain syrup would serve fine, I used some late-harvest riesling wine to wrap up the fruits and pudding, to turn the whole thing into a most hedonistic fruit salad. The addition of chopped chili peppers was really a last-minute thing that occurred to my mind just before shooting, but it certainly added a nice but substantial kick to the otherwise plain sweet thing. I loved it.

The other thing I tried was Lychee Compote with Dried Fruits and Spiced Oolong Tea, based on the recipe here (in Japanese). Originally made with canned syruped lychee, this would have been quite intensively sweet with the addition of sugar-concentrated dried apricots and dates. I used fresh lychee and cut the sugar by half, but it was still pretty sweet; star anise and cinnamon even enhanced the sweetness, and kiwi fruits balanced out the color and flavor with its tart fresh green flesh. Lychee, by the way, wasn't exactly heated here but instead put in the warm tea syrup, to get a gentle "cook" and absorb flavors as it cools. Easy to make and full of flavors.

Now I have done a two years' worth of lychee post I guess, although I am way behind in food- and travel-blogging I would have liked to be done by now. I still have quite a few photos and stories from my stay down under in this past February-May, and I'm just back from a two-week stay in England with another ton of photos... I am pretty sure that many of you may already be as tired of my sporadic, chaotic, poorly-organized blogging habit as I am, but if you could drop by once in a while as I try to do more posts. Unless I'm on another trip, that is.

July 18, 2006

back midst the monsoon

Seoul, Korea; a few more hours to Tokyo...

July 9, 2006

no tennis match this year

Champagne. Strawberries and cream. Green and purple.

Ivy . Pimm's. Hats. Umbrellas. These were all "typical" things I had seen on TV, heard about, or imagined... in connection with Wimbledon. I was there for the 2006 Wimbledon Championships. I have always been a bit of tennis fan (meaning: watching games, not playing), and when my friend suggested we may have tickets to the ground (not to the center court games), I felt walking on air. Being at the venue of the Wimbledon games at the time of Championships was something I had long dreamed of, and just to be there was... plain amazing, even if it was in the rain. That's kind of expected, anyways.

Well, Wimbledon wasn't the prime purpose of my trip to London, though. I did yet another last-minute travel arrangement at the end of June and hopped in the airplane to escape from wet Tokyo to... wet London. The weather hasn't been the best this great old city could offer at this time of the year, but we've had some fabulous days with occasional rains and above all, I'm catching up with my dear Londoner friends once again, joining their barbeque tables, having drinks alfresco.

By the way, what I didn't see at Wimbledon was... tennis players. None. We had to leave there at about 2 pm, and it was later in the afternoon that the weather picked up and the games took place. Oh well, I seem to have this feeling of coming back here again next year or sometime for the games... if I am lucky, which I have always been, thankfully.