The world of fruit in the grocery store can be a bit predictable. That is why whenever I am shopping and I see something new and interesting, I jump at the chance to try it out.
Longan is one of those “oops I stumbled on this delicious treat” kind of finds and I strongly encourage you to purchase some if you ever see it be it the market, a specialty store, or a roadside stand in a tropical place.
What Is Longan?
Longan is a tropical tree that produces an edible fruit of the same name. This tree belongs to the soapberry family of trees which also includes other delicious fruits like rambutan and lychee.
These trees are native to Asia but have been introduced to warm areas around the world. On their branches, the fruit grows in little clusters.
Despite its ho-hum brown exterior, the tender fruit inside is absolutely delightful. It has translucent flesh and surrounds a black seed. Fresh longan is like a less aromatic version of lychee. Some find lychee a bit soapy in terms of its taste and if you fall into that category, longan might be just the fruit for you.
It goes by the nickname “dragon’s eye” due to what it looks like with its dark seed once it has been peeled. They are roughly the size of a grape and have a similar texture. In terms of flavor, longan is sweet, a touch tart, and floral on the palate. Some even describe it as a bit musky.
How Do I Eat Longan?
If you are familiar with the technique of eating lychee or even rambutan, you are off to a good start. Longan has a thick skin/exterior and you will need something hefty to break through that whether it is a nail, a small paring knife, or if you are out and about, simply, your teeth.
The skin is then discarded and the white flesh inside consumed. Proceed with caution however as there is a hard seed in the center of the flesh that could do some dental damage if you aren’t careful.
How Do I Cook With Longan?
You can find them sold fresh, dried, or canned in syrup, and because of its great and not too specific flavor, it can be used in many applications.
First and foremost, it makes for a wonderful snack. Second and equally wonderful, it is a great addition to any fruit salad or tropical salad you have in mind.
Past that, I have seen it used in recipes for cheesecake, cookies, smoothies, cocktails, and much much more. So… the sky’s the limit when it comes to longan!
Health Benefits of Longan
Like many fruits, they boasts a good amount of Vitamin C. It is low in calories and carbohydrates and high in potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
What Can I Substitute for Longan?
In a pinch, longan can be substitute with rambutan or lychee. That said, keep in mind both those fruits have a more pronounced flavor and more floral qualities than the longan.
How Do I Store Longan?
Longan is best stored in a plastic bag in the fridge with the top left open. The skin may harden a bit but it does not affect the deliciousness inside. Stored this way, it can last up to two weeks in the fridge.