Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lychee Love

Lychee, peeled and unpeeled
Over the weekend we went home and made sure to visit the Asian grocery there. We don't have one here and we miss our favorite Chinese foods, especially the exotic fresh fruits. Lychee and dragonfruit are in season now so we picked some up. I fell in love with sweet lychee in Guangzhou, China. Guangzhou is located in Guadong Province, famous for the lychee grown there. The fabulous breakfast buffet in the White Swan hotel featured mounds of sweet, fresh lychee, and I found the fruit delicious. Lychee look a bit like sweet gum balls, but when you peel off the thin, brittle shell you find sweet translucent white flesh. There is a large pit in the center, about twice the size of a cherry pit. Lychee taste rather like tart cherries, only sweeter.
While we were in Guangzhou we tried the often-recommended Cow and Bridge Thai restaurant. The food there is delicious, although they do charge you for a napkin! At the time the menu featured seasonal concoctions and I tried the Lychee Fried Rice. It was just amazing. I can't remember if the meat used was pork or chicken. I do remember it had a distinctive sweet and salty flavor. I know the rice had lychee and cashews, and I'm pretty sure it also had cantaloupe. I know that sounds weird but it was really good. I adapted my regular fried rice recipe to replicate the Thai recipe. I didn't have any cantaloupe, but you could easily add it at the same time as the lychee. I will include the recipe below.
After we peeled the lychee we decided to see if we can grow some ourselves, since it's so hard to find around here. It is supposed to be hard to grow, but if you are successful the trees are only a couple feet tall, so easy to fit in a pot. Here's how we planted the lychee:

Push the lychee seed into wet potting soil
First, take 4 or 5 good-looking lychee seeds and plant them as soon as you take them from the fruit. Press them into wet potting soil. Cover the pot with a plastic bag and secure with a rubber band. You can see my little helper's hands in this photo! The seeds should sprout in two weeks. If more than one comes up you can separate them and move them into different spots. These are tropical plants, so if you don't live in a tropical climate you will need to move the trees indoors in winter.

Cover with plastic to make a mini greenhouse.
I've never tried to grow lychee before, so I will just have to get back to you if I'm successful. I have a lot of tropical fruits I'm trying to grow right now. I really hope at least one works out! As for my fried rice adaptation, I am happy to share.

Lychee Fried Rice
Serves 10-12
1/4 cup coconut oil. divided
2 large eggs
I cup diced meat, chopped, cooked or raw ( I used nitrate-free bacon for this recipe)
2 large bell peppers, diced
2 large sweet onions, diced
1 10-oz package frozen peas, thawed
3 cups cooked rice ( I used Thai Red Rice for extra color)
1/4 cup soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
4 green onions, sliced, or 1/3 cup fresh chopped chives
2-3 cups fresh, peeled lychee fruits, chopped
1/3 cup dried coconut shreds
1/2 cup cantaloupe, thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews
When cooking rice for Asian dishes or sushi, I add 1-2 tbsp. sake or mirin and a two inch piece of dried seaweed (Dashi Kanbu) to the water and rice for flavor. Remove the seaweed when the rice is done. You can discard it or chop it and add to the dish.
For the fried rice, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil at medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, scramble them slightly, and turn once while cooking. Remove from skillet, chop and set aside. Heat the remaining 3 tbsp. oil in a skillet, add meat, peppers, and onions and stir fry 5 minutes for cooked meat or until cooked thoroughly for raw meat. Add the peas  and next 3 ingredients; stir-fry 3-4 minutes or until onions are soft. Stir in egg and remaining ingredients and toss until heated through.
Sometimes I also use brown jasmine rice for this recipe. Either option tastes very good. If you like spicy foods, add more chili sauce to suit your taste. My children won't eat this if I add more than a teaspoon. Peanut oil may be substituted for sesame oil. The dried coconut is not the sticky, sweet coconut from the baking aisle; you can find unsweetened dried coconut in the produce aisle, usually hanging next to the dried mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. It adds a great crunch to all kinds if recipes, from savory fried rice to sweet fruit crisp. I use Melissa's brand. I adapted this recipe from Southern Living Magazine's Henry Guo's Fried Rice recipe, which I've used for many years.

Lychee Fried Rice

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