The longan (龍眼) — translated literally as “dragon eye” — is so named because it resembles an eyeball when its fruit is shelled (the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil/iris). The seed is small, round and hard, and of an enamel-like, lacquered black. The fully ripened, freshly harvested shell is bark-like, thin, and firm, making the fruit easy to shell by squeezing the fruit out as if one is “cracking” a sunflower seed.
The fruit is sweet, juicy and succulent in superior agricultural varieties, and apart from being eaten fresh, is also often used in East Asian soups, snacks, desserts, and sweet-and-sour foods, either fresh or dried, sometimes canned with syrup in supermarkets. The taste is quite different from lychees; while longan have a drier sweetness, lychees are often messily juicy with a more tropical, sour sweetness. Longans have a fresh distinctive taste and can be used to “cut the palate” like a sorbet.
Their delicious burst of sweet juice, followed by a slightly spicy aftertaste, makes Longans go a long way with ice-cream. For something special, combine with other fruit and a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier. The characteristic musky flavour of the longan also complements savoury foods. Add to your favourite stir-fry. You do not eat the seed or shell. Refer to Longan Recipes[no_toc]
Dried longan, called guìyuán (桂) in Chinese, are often used in Chinese cuisine and Chinese sweet dessert soups.
In Chinese food therapy and herbal medicine, it is believed to have an effect on relaxation. In contrast with the fresh fruit, which is juicy and white, the flesh of dried longan is dark brown to almost black.
Buying and storage
Choose fruits that are firm. To open simply squeeze at the stalk end and the flesh should pop out. Fresh fruit can be stored in refrigerator wrapped in plastic for five to seven days and may be kept a room temperature for two or three days. Can also be frozen, or dried.
Preparing and serving
Being easy to peel, it makes an unusual and quick addition to a salad. Add a bunch to a fruit platter for novelty and colour contrast.