Longans originate from China and are related to both Lychees and Rambutans. Where lychees have a roughly patterned skin, these are smooth and almost crisp in texture.
They are also known as "dragon eyes" - the reason why becomes apparent when you peel the fruit
and reveals that dark seed visible through the translucent flesh. Though perhaps thinking you're eating eyeballs isn't something you really want to imagine.
Tastewise, they are very similar to lychees as you would expect.
When it came to making something with these I decided make something that's a bit of a family affair - a fruit salad with longan, lychee and rambutan with mango added for colour and a different flavour note. To then accentuate the round nature of these fruits I've also incorporated coloured tapioca seed that also have an interesting jelly quality to them. To round out this asian feel, they will all be marinated in a kaffir lime leaf syrup.
Tropical Fruit Salad in Kaffir Lime Leaf Syrup
Simple sugar syrup
Kaffir Lime leaves
coloured tapioca balls
Make the syrup:
A simple sugar syrup is made using 1 part water to 1 part sugar - it's then put on the stove and reduced slightly to form a syrup. For this recipe I've added shredded kaffir lime leaves - if you don't have access to them, lime or lemon zest will do.
You'll need to let the syrup cool before using it for this dish.
Cook the tapioca:
The tapioca I've used is a quick cooking coloured version
These need to boiled for about 5 minutes and then simmered until soften - they don't go mushy, they should have a bit of a chewy texture like jelly babies. Let the tapioca cool before using them in this dish.
Assemble the salad:
Mango - cut the cheeks away from the stone, then mark the cheeks in a small criss-cross pattern. Using a large spoon you run it along the skin, this will cause the mango to release in a small dice.
Rambutans - the skin is very easy to remove, it's quite thick - you can either cut it along the horizontal or vertical line
Because these are much larger than the lychee or longan, I then cut them into eights, discarding the seed.
Lychees and Longans - are treated much the same, peel, seed and depending on the size cut them in half or quarters.
Place the prepared fruit into a bowl, add the cooked tapioca and then pour over with enough syrup to cover, then place it in the fridge for a few hours to allow the flavours of the syrup to sink in.