Friday, July 13, 2007

Alien Invasion

Aren’t lychees weird? File them under “I didn’t know they actually exist.” The first time I tasted a lychee was in the context of booze, appropriately enough – a lychee martini at Bond St in New York. It was sickly sweet and strangely cologne-like. There was a very odd perfumed edge to the drink that I attributed to the lychee canning process. I was wrong. That edge is the nature of the lychee, the most alien-looking thing I have consumed in recent memory.

I recently let my curiosity get the best of me at Whole Foods and grabbed a box of fresh lychees. Lychees are fruit technically, but resemble fleshy nuts more than anything else (to my fevered imagination, in any case). Peeling back the thin and spiky red skin reveals what resembles a large alien eyeball. Fear not, that’s the edible part. Under about 5 millimeters of translucent white eyeball flesh lies a large and shiny brown seed, it looks like an elongated marble. To eat the lychee, one has to suck the flesh off the seed, making alien slurping noises in the process (perhaps that was just me).

Lychees taste like perfume, intensely floral and cloying, very much unlike anything else I have tried. It felt almost illicit to eat, like it couldn’t possibly be a natural product and not horrifically bad for me, pickling me from the inside out like many artificially flavored foods do (this is not a medical opinion, by the way). So there you go – a natural fruit that looks alien and tastes like fake candy… in a good way.

P.S. A germinating lychee seed looks remarkably sperm-like, doesn’t it? I cannot possibly be the only one to think this. Please tell me I am not the only one.


aimee said...

See, I just can't bring myself to enjoy lychees. Once I get over the fact that I'm eating something remarkably like an eyeball in both appearance and texture (erm...), then I'm just left with that strangely unsettling perfumey taste. Though it's certainly not offensive, perhaps even somewhat pleasant, it just seems totally wrong. Call me crazy but I just don't think my food should taste like girl.

I totally see the sperm resemblance. I'd think it would be obvious to anyone really. To anyone without lychees for eyes.

Ps. Your blog is acting weird, is it just me?

Howard said...

I recently found at Russo's the similar and even more alien looking: Rambutan. Tasty.

Anna said...

Aimee - Sorry. Yes, blog is acting weird. I had a minor panic attack this morning but figured out how to fix it. Well, I didn't figure it out, but found someone who did, thankfully. Food should not taste or smell like girl, I agree. I can eat one lychee, after that it's a little dicey.

Howard! Hi! Thank you for visiting. I am sorry I haven't commented on your blog. I have nothing intelligent or interesting to say about politics. Fruit, yes, foreign policy - no. I have never seen rambutan. Does it taste like lychees do? How much do you love Russo's? I am infatuated with it.

JC said...

I'm not sure if I've had lychee or not. Which means I probably haven't. I know I haven't eaten one straight up, but I've had so many different types of Asian food that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was a part of something I have eaten.

I bought some dried rambutan at Trader Joe's when I was in Arizona. At first I really liked it, but once I tasted the dried mango (much sweeter), the dried rambutan wasn't as good to me.

DD said...

Normally I don't like to work for my food...however, lychees are an exception. Once you get past that and the offputting name, it's delish!

We used to eat lychees by the dozen back in India. They are abundant and easily accessible there. You can pick up a bunch on the roadside. Until recently, I could only find them at Indian stores. It's nice to see the larger grocery chains catching on.

But somehow, I still prefer to go to the small Indian shops and get them from there.

Try it with a little salt and pepper or chat masala.

Anna said...

JC - I think you would remember lychee if you had it. It is rather memorable. Not in a bad way... just memorable. The TJ mango is faaantastic. A little sweet for my taste though.

DD (Archna) - HI :) Salt on lychees sounds brilliant. Make them less sticky sweet. Must try. I still can't believe you eat off the streets in India. You are a daredevil.

Deborah Dowd said...

To be honest (and show my culinary limitations!) I have never seen a fresh lychee until your photo-and I have to say, it doesn't look appetizing. But, neither do oysters, and we all know how delicious they are!

Anna said...

Agreed! They do both look weird. Although while I could eat my weight in oysters, I cannot say the same of lychees. They may be an acquired taste.
Have you seen dried lychees? Or canned? I am curious about dried ones - hoping they lose that eyeball quality I could do without.

Lisa said...

yes, Lychee does look a bit wierd.... But I love them just the same. I don't really agree with u when u say that they taste like 'perfume'- have u evr tasted perfume before? I agree that they taste like how a perfume smell,;- now that's a different story :-)