Why you should have a longing for longan
If you were to translate literally the name of a popular fruit in Vietnam from Chinese to English, it may not sound so appealing.
|A popular summer drink in Hanoi consisting of lotus seed wrapped in longan, sliced coconut, lotus seed water, coconut water, and tapioca. VNS Photo Doan Tung|
Longan means dragon’s eye and it was given its moniker because when peeled, the seeds embedded in the juicy flesh look a little like the eye-ball of the fire-breathing mythical creature.
But if you don’t have any particular problems with dragons then there is no reason you shouldn’t have a longing for longan.
Aside from tasting amazing, there are some little known facts about longan you really should learn.
Health experts say longan is a real gem of a fruit that provides an endless list of feel-good benefits.
It is documented to help anti-inflammatory problems, treat anemia and iron deficiencies, reduce stress, help insomniacs and, we’ll save the best for last, even give you young and glowing skin.
Maybe that’s why Vietnamese natives seem to defy the aging process.
Right about now is longan season, and this is particularly evident in Hung Yen Province, also known as longan country.
Forty kilometres or so from Hanoi, Hung Yen is renowned for producing some of the best longans in all of Asia.
Farmer Dang Thi Kim Anh has been growing there for 15 years, and often travels into the capital to sell her produce.
|Dang Thi Kim Anh from Hung Yen Province has been growing longan for 15 years. About 40km from Hanoi, Hung Yen is renowned for producing the best longans in Vietnam. VNS Photo Doan Tung|
“Longan from Hung Yen Province smell good, taste sweet and are crunchy,” she said.
“And they look good as well. A lot of people travel to Hung Yen to eat our longan fruit.
“I’ve been growing longan fruit for some 15 years.
“I often use hay as fertiliser for the longan trees. As well as wood ash, and kali fertiliser. Other than that I don’t use anything else.”
There are many dishes that can be created using longan. Soups, desserts, teas and salads to name but a few.
In Hanoi’s Old Quarter, café owner Vu Huong Giang uses longan to create what she believes is the perfect summer drink.
|Longan drinks can be found in traditional cafés and sweet soup dessert shops in the capital city. VNS Photo Paul Kennedy|
“It’s an elaborate process making this drink,” said Giang.
“We buy fresh longan, peel them, take out the seeds while trying to keep the flesh intact so we can put lotus seeds in. And we do this very carefully so the longan flesh embraces the lotus seeds.
“The longan has to be taken from Hung Yen Province because it’s their harvest season now. The fruits should be big and taste good to make the drinks appealing.
“We have our own way of cooking lotus seeds. Our lotus seeds are always soft and juicy and have a nutty taste. I also add coconut water and lotus seed water to increase the lotus flavour.”
|A customer enjoys a longan drink. VNS Photo Bao Hoa|
Pham Thi Gam, is a regular visitor to Chè Bốn Mùa (Four Seasons) café, and a regular consumer of longan drinks.
“I find this drink very cool and light for the summer,” she said.
“It’s got a little bit of tapioca, lotus seeds wrapped in longan. The longan tastes sweet, crunchy and the lotus seeds have a creamy and nutty taste. I like it very much.”
It tastes great, cools you down and, if you believe in traditional medicine, is packed full of health benefits.
Time to put an end to those longings for longan.
Bao Hoa & Paul Kennedy