Photo: Late boat at Waecicu near Labuan Bajo.

What is a longan?

The longan is native to China and Southeast Asia and is often called the lychee's little brother. It has delicate whitish and translucent flesh with a musky, grape flavour that is sweeter than a lychee, encasing a small brown seed and covered with pale brown and brittle skin. The longan is just a little larger than an olive and is not quite as juicy as a lychee. The Chinese name means "dragon's eye". The fruit of the longan tree ripens a little later than the lychee and it is able to grow at lower temperatures and is less exacting about its growing conditions.

The fruit is usually just eaten on its own as it has a subtle flavour easily compromised by other foods. Buy longans when they are still on the stem at the market - fruits off the stem and generally too ripe to be at their best by the time you get them home. Ensure the skin is free from mould and spots. Because of the firmer rind, the fruit is less perishable than the lychee.

The flesh of the fruit is regarded as an antidote for poison while the dried flesh taken as a tea can be used to treat insomnia and neurasthenic neurosis. In Vietnam the seed is pressed against a snakebite in the belief that it will absorb the venom.

Fruit in Asia FAQ

A bit of history, perhaps a taste-test and an idea on just what some of those Asian fruits really look like.

Asian fruit FAQ

What is a banana?
What is a cantaloupe?
What is a durian?
What is a guava?
What is a jackfruit?
What is a mangosteen?
What is a papaya?
What is a pineapple?
What is a rambutan?
What is a soursop?
What is a starfruit?
What is a watermelon?

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