Lychee, often referred to as the “Gem of the Orient,” is a delectable tropical fruit that has captured the hearts and palates of people worldwide. Familiar with lychee since I was a kid as this is a local fruit in Vietnam, I was taught to enjoy sweet and juicy lychee fruits til the last piece. Let me share with you how to choose, peel, eat and store lychee at home in the longest period.
What is lychee
Before we dive into the delightful details of how to select, peel, and enjoy lychee, it’s essential to acquaint ourselves with this remarkable tropical fruit. Here’s some basics about it:
Lychee is a small, round fruit roughly the size of a golf ball. Its outer shell is a textured, reddish-pink to reddish-brown color, with a bumpy surface that resembles reptilian scales. This textured skin is easily recognizable and is one of lychee’s distinctive features.
Underneath the rugged exterior lies the juicy treasure of lychee. Like rambutan, the fruit’s flesh is translucent, with a pearlescent sheen and a jelly-like consistency. Its texture is the combication between softness and chewiness, and it possesses a unique floral sweetness as well.
Lychee is not only a treat for the taste buds but also a nutritious addition to your diet. It is a good source of vitamin C, providing a substantial portion of your daily recommended intake. Additionally, lychee contains various antioxidants, including polyphenols and flavonoids, which contribute to its potential health benefits.
What’s the difference with rambutan?
Although both have a translucent, jelly-like white flesh with a sweet taste, they are different from the appearance, texture and also the taste. If you used to eat both, you can distinguish the difference in their sweet taste as well.
How to Choose Ripe Lychee
The key to enjoying lychee’s delectable sweetness to the fullest lies in selecting ripe fruit. An unripe lychee isn’t delicous at all; it’s sour and the texture is more chewy, so we have to choose the ripe ones. Here’s how to ensure you pick the finest lychee fruits:
Color and Texture:
When examining lychee, look for fruits with a vibrant and uniform reddish-pink to reddish-brown color. The skin should feel slightly rough and not overly hard, indicating ripeness. Avoid more brown skin color as it shows the fruit is left on the shelf for long, so you won’t be able to store lychee at home for a longer period.
Gently squeeze the lychee to assess its firmness. A ripe lychee should yield slightly to pressure but not be too soft or mushy. If it’s too firm, the fruit past its prime and the skin starts to dry.
Take a moment to smell the lychee. A ripe lychee emits a sweet and fragrant aroma that is unmistakable. If it lacks this characteristic scent, it may need more time to ripen.
Ripe lychee should feel relatively heavy for their size due to their high water content. Lighter lychee may be less juicy and flavorful, or rotted.
Pay attention to the stem end of the lychee. If the stem is brown and dry, it’s a sign of ripeness. Keep in mind that lychee ripens quickly once picked, so it’s best to consume them promptly after purchase. If you plan to enjoy lychee later, you can store them in the refrigerator to extend their freshness.
How to Peel and Eat Lychee
Now that you’ve selected the perfect lychee, it’s time to unravel its sweet treasure by mastering the art of peeling. Peeling lychee is just a simple process, luckily. And remember just peel the lychee one by one once you eat it, it’s better than peeling all then enjoying later. It’s because lychee can undergo the dehydration and oxidation when exposed to the air. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Tools You’ll Need:
Nothing, just use your fingernail.
Start by rinsing the lychee under cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Let them dry in a basket. Gently score the lychee’s skin to make a small tear by your fingertip. Then, peel away the skin and eat the flesh.
Remember that the lychee’s seed is not edible, so spit the seed out. Especially when you let a child eat lychee, while the seed can be choked on and causes suffocation, remove the seed before giving it to him/her. To remove seed of a lychee, after tearing the skin, use a fruit knife, not too sharp to ensure the safety, cut the flesh into 2 halves and remove the seed inside.
Dishes with lychee
Not only eating it right away, you can add lychee to many delicious dishes! Here’s some of my suggestions on how to enjoy this gem, from popular desserts in Vietnam to creations in salads or cocktails:
Lychee Fruit Salad:
Combine lychee with other fresh fruits by cutting pineapple, mango, watermelon, pomegranate, strawberries and other favorite fruits into cubes and mix together to create a refreshing fruit salad. Drizzle with a bit of honey or a sprinkle of mint for an extra touch of flavor.
You can add lychee to your favorite cocktails for a tropical twist. Lychee martinis or mojitos are popular choices that highlight its unique taste. Otherwise, lychee tea is another favorite drink of many people, including me. Just drop several lychees into a cup of tea and slightly crush it to release the juice.
Incorporate lychee into desserts such as sorbets, ice creams, or puddings for a sweet and exotic treat. Especially, Vietnamese has a wonderful dessert to enjoy lychee in summer: “chè khúc bạch” or panna cotta lychee dessert, a perfect combination between the sweet and refreshing lychee and the creamy, rich panna cotta.
How to Store Lychee at Home
Once you’ve brought home a batch of succulent lychee, it’s essential to store them correctly to maintain their freshness and prolong their shelf life. Proper storage will ensure that you can enjoy these delectable fruits over an extended period. Let’s learn how to store lychee at home:
The refrigerator is the best place to presere the freshness of lychee. Place the lychee in a perforated plastic bag or a container with a lid and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. The cool, humid environment will help maintain their texture and flavor.
Avoid moisture: Ensure that the lychee are dry before storing them. Excess moisture can lead to mold or spoilage. If you washed the lychee before refrigeration, make sure to pat them dry with a clean towel. A small tip is to add some paper tissue into the container or bag of lychee.
Ventilation: If you have a container with a lid, make sure it’s not entirely airtight. Lychee benefit from a bit of ventilation to prevent the build-up of excess humidity, which can lead to rotting.
Consume Promptly: While lychee can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-6 days, they are best enjoyed as fresh as possible. Try to consume them within a week to enjoy their peak flavor and texture.
Although I don’t recommend this because it will make the texture change significantly, if you have an abundance of lychee and cannot consume them all in time, consider freezing them. Peel and remove the seeds from the lychee, then place the flesh in an airtight container or a freezer bag. Frozen lychee can be used later in smoothies, making syrup or cold drinks, but unable to enjoy with salad or desserts.
So it’s all the things you should know how to store lychee a right way and enjoy it as long as possible since the purchase. Try lychee one time and you will never regret!