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About Longan


(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 ice.

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.

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