Friday, November 15, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Lychees

     I first had lychees over a decade ago, at a combination Japanese restaurant/grocery in the Ft. Dix, NJ area.  The sushi at the restaurant was very good, and the grocery sold me pickled ginger and shredded squid for later, so it was a very satisfying dining experience.  Anyway, my friend Keith bought something called lychee nuts, and passed some out for us to try.  It was pretty bad.  It tasted similar to a plum which had way too much salt on it.  It might have tasted okay, or even good with like one-tenth the salt, but I never had the opportunity to find out.
     Fast forward many years, and I saw a type of exotic for sale in the fruit and vegetable section at Wegmans, the awesome supermarket I’ve gone on about in many other posts.  They looked bizarre—like sea urchins, and were called just lychees.  I bought them, and then did a little research.  It turns out that lychees are indeed a fruit, and not nuts, although they’re sometimes referred to as such when they’re dried (and apparently over salted).  They’re an Asian fruit, cultivated in China, Sri Lanka, Japan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Thailand, Pakistan, and Nepal.  They’ve been eaten for at least 4,000 years, and are considered a delicacy.  Nutritionally they’re very high in Vitamin C, copper, potassium, and phosphorus.  Lychees are occasionally also made into a wine.
     Underneath the soft spiny exterior, I found a whitish fruit, which then contained a pit, which was comparatively large.  The fruit itself was reminiscent of a cherry, only blander.  It wasn’t bad (certainly not terrible like the “nut” form) but it wasn’t dazzling, either.  Especially given its relatively high price and tiny amount of fruit per porcupine-like pod, I won’t purchase fresh lychees again.
     However, I also saw them canned, so to be fair I gave them a final chance in this format.  The picture on the label showed the familiar whitish fruits within a reddish “pod” or rind, without the blackish spines.  So either there are several varieties, or else folks shave them for eye appeal.  They tasted all right, but not great.  The sugar seemed to help somewhat.

     So all in all, whether dried, canned, or fresh, I’m not impressed with lychees, since at best they’re mediocre. 

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