If you see a lychee tree and think for a split second that it looks strikingly similar to something out of one of those Chinese paintings, you won’t be quite off the mark. The lychee was a celebrated delicacy in the court of Imperial China and has been the subject of many Chinese paintings from the first century. In fact, such was the demand for fresh lychees that a special courier service was organized to bring the fruit from the south-eastern province of Guangdong to the emperor’s court in the northern city of Bianjing.
Native to China (there are Chinese accounts that date its cultivation back to 2,000 BC), Malaysia and Vietnam, lychee was only introduced to the West in 1782. Lychees require a warm, sub-tropical climate and are cultivated now in—apart from China and South-East Asia—Japan, California, Texas and Florida in the US, South Africa, Madagascar, Mexico, Pakis- tan, Bangladesh and India.
Mineral-rich: The fruit is high in potassium and copper. Potassium offers protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells.
The lychee is favoured most in dessert form and continues to be extremely popular in China, South-East and South Asia. Lychees are popular in fruit salads and dressings and lychee drinks are hugely refreshing in tropical summers.
They are, of course, best eaten fresh.
Eat it this way
Lychee Jalousie with Lychee Granite
To prepare the puff pastry for Jalousie
• 5-6 lychees
•1 tbsp icing sugar
•1 tsp salt
•1 tsp melted butter
•75g milk powder
•100g butter for layering
Make a smooth dough with all the ingredients other than the lychees (keep a pinch of icing sugar aside) and set it in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the chilled dough from the freezer. Roll it, pat some butter on it and then fold into half. Repeat this process three times. Divide the dough into two parts and then roll the dough into two uniform sheets. Fold these sheets into two rectangles and arrange them on top of each other like a sandwich. Take the lychees and coat with a sprinkling of sugar; arrange on top of these two sheets. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.
Chill out: This is the season to enjoy Lychee Jalousie with Lychee Granite.
To prepare Lychee Granite
•500g lychee juice
Boil the ingredients and set in the freezer for 4 hours. Remove and crush with a fork. Serve frozen with Jalousie.
—Narendra Lendave, pastry chef, The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace, Hyderabad.