10/02/2009

Fruits of Viet Nam: Longan (Long Nhãn, Dragon Eye Fruit)

Long Nhãn (means Dragon Eye in Vietnamese language) is abundant in many provinces in the Viet Nam. Known as a close relative to the lychee, this fruit is also tiny (about 2 cm in diameter) with a brownish brittle covering. The peel can be easily removed by hand, usually by pressing its tip with the thumb and index finger. Once a part of the shell slightly breaks, the rest can be removed with ease. Inside it is a whitish translucent pulp enclosing a glistening black hard inedible seed. With its size, you can easily pop these pulps into the mouth since some of them do not contain seeds. Apart from not edible, the seeds also has a strong bitter taste to it, therefore, should never be eaten along with the flesh. Many believe that its pulp taste similar to the lychee but somewhat sweeter and less juicy.

There are many varieties of Long Nhãn in Viet Nam. However, the “Cage-Longan (Nhãn Lồng)” is considered most popular. Its name “cage-longan” comes from the technique of covering the Long Nhãn with cages to protect them from the birds. Another variety, the pulp longan, have thicker pulps and a very distinct sweet taste. Water longans have a thin watery pulp and a fresh sweet taste. In the South, the longan of Chau Thanh (from Dong Thap Province) is very renowned throughout the country. This variety has a watery pulp, a very sweet taste, a perfumed scent, and small black seeds, which is why it is also called Nhan Tieu (pepper grain longan). Long Nhãn is also used to prepare a delicious dessert soup called “Chè Long Nhãn with lotus seed”. Dried Long Nhãns cooked in water is also a popular dessert drink in Vietnam called “Nước long nhãn”.