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 Originally made with canned syruped lychee, this would have been quite intensively sweet with the addition of sugar-concentrated dried apricots and dates.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.


Miss Tiffie said...

gorgeous photos as always. and how creative with the added chilli to the jello. yummm i wanna try them out!! 

Posted by tiffie

Unknown said...

Dang. Amazing photos. Also all that looks totally yumtastic. I had a lychee martine once, which was mind-blowing to say the least. A quick way to mow yourself fast for sure.  

Posted by Garrett

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your mention in Food and Wine magazine. Your photos are stunning. Well deserved! 

Posted by maryeats

gastronot said...

Dear Chika,
I have a problem, maybe you can help me, if you want. I have a workshop about cooking and I search traditional Japan Culinary for this month. My chef wants from me that I will make a tpical Japan Menu. I didn't find any info about your menus. Can you help me... Thanks giving.

Posted by bahar yaka

Orchidea said...

I like lychees a lot... I learn to eat them last year in Singapore, they were so good!
Nice recipes and ideas.

Posted by Orchidea

gecko said...

Hey Chika,

Just letting you know that i've added your link to my blog... hope thats ok!

Fab photos as always! 

Posted by gecko

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, tasted, original, very appropiate for this time of year. It's hot here in Spain so I really enjoy this kind of fresh and delicius shots. Pedro 

Posted by Pedro Alvarez

Anonymous said...

Hi there, thank you all for the comments and compliments! Now that the lychee season is far over in most parts of the northern hemisphere, we could only wait until next year for another batch of the fresh produce... or savor lychee liquor maybe :)

bahar yaka - sorry I haven't been able to get back to you any sooner to be of any help, but I hope your project went all well.

Wendy - I'm afraid I haven't been able to find time to do recipe translations these days... sorry! you might want to turn to one of those online translators, and then if you have any specific question I might be able to be of a help.

Posted by chika