(Nephelium longana, Euphorbia longana)
Native to South East Asia, the longan is now cultivated as a commercial
crop in Australia. A comparison with lychees is unavoidable as they are
closely related and appear similar after peeling. Instead of the bright
pinkish red, rough skin of the lychee, the longan's skin is smoother,
more brittle and pale brown, but its flesh, not as white as that of the
lychee, is every bit as luscious and, in most opinion, sweeter and more
fragrant. The Chinese name of loong narn translates as "dragon's eye".
Smaller than a lychee, it is also rounder in shape and as the shiny
black seed shows through the translucent aril, one understands the
aptness of the Chinese description.
A fruit as delicately fragrant as this
should really be eaten on its own - not messed about, cut up, mixed into
fruit salads or otherwise compromised. The skin is thin and easily
removed. The seeds are not attached to the fleshy aril which yields to
gentle pressure of teeth and tongue.
Dried longan : Longans and lychees
are both sold dried. Their skin, even more brittle when dried surrounds
a shrunken fruit which is dark, sweet and slightly smoky in flavor and
resembles a round raisin. Sometimes sold minus the seeds, compressed
into a cake, in small, expensive packets.
Dried longans are simmered with black sticky
rice in a Nyonya version of rice pudding, or eaten as a snack like any
dried fruit. They are boiled in water to make cool drinks, floating in
lightly sweetened liquid together with finely shredded agar-agar jelly,
barley, white fungus, water chestnuts, Chinese red dates and crushed
Purchasing and storing : When
purchasing longans, try to buy those still attached to stems. They are
usually sold in twiggy bunches. When the fruit fall off after a few days
they are gathered into bags, sold by weight, and by this stage are not
as fresh as they once were, but can still be very nice if they are
sound. Make sure the skins are not cracked and that they have no moist
spots on them. They should be stored in a cool place and eaten within a
day or two.
Out of season, purchase longans in cans.
They are one of the few tropical fruits that tolerate canning without
losing too much of their flavor and texture. In this form they are
delicious with almond jelly, or as part of a fruit medley served in a
small watermelon shell offering balls of honeydew, watermelon and
longans. Do not include rockmelon (cantaloupe), which would be too
strong-flavored and drown out the rest.