For the Love of Lychee
In a state that doesn’t define its seasons by snowfall and leaves that change colors, Hawaii’s dwellers turn to other signals to mark each time of year. Winter brings with it boisterous and barreling waves on the North Shore, while summer is all about the fresh fruits that start to ripen and enliven our hot days with juicy and flavorful refreshment.
There are no two fruits more synonymous with summertime than mango and lychee. For all their cooling goodness, they bring a special warmth to the season when picked fresh from our own backyards, or received in bountiful batches as gifts from neighbors, friends and coworkers.
That’s why Dining Out is proposing a toast to mango and lychee this week by showcasing the exciting events and dishes that surround these seasonal fruits. It all starts right here on the pages of Ono, You Know, where I’ll show you where to get some lively lychee creations that surely will appeal to your sweet tooth.
While eating fresh lychee always is a joy, I’ve found that it’s a fruit that lends itself well to the realm of desserts. Someone who has understood this concept for years — and has put it to good use — is Fendu Boulangerie owner and chef Niel Koep.
“It’s not a fruit that you find everywhere,” he says. “Its texture is like nothing else.”
Since the bakery opened six years ago, Koep’s signature Lychee Streusel Danish ($2.35) has been a menu favorite. Based on a French apricot danish, Koep puts an island twist on his recipe by using juicy lychee instead of the typical orange fruit. Baked together with vanilla pastry cream, almond cream and light-and-flaky European-style Danish dough, this treat is nothing short of splendid when enjoyed as a breakfast pastry or alongside a cup of coffee or tea.
Over the years, Koep gradually has added more lychee-bedazzled sweets to his offerings. Creamy yet revitalizing Lychee Caramel Flan ($4.60), for instance, popped up a couple of years ago. “It’s a classic creme caramel, but it’s infused with lychee,” explains the chef. “We serve it with fresh watermelon. The watermelon and lychee go very well together, especially in the summertime.”
After that, Koep introduced Pate De Fruit (99 cents each, $10 for a dozen). These gluten-free goodies are reminiscent of fruit jellies and feature authentic flavors thanks to the fruit purees used to make them. Of all the flavors, I can’t help but dive into lychee, of course, and I love them because they’re nice and firm, yet light at the same time.
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Behind the doors of Chinatown’s Restaurant Epic, patrons always are cordially invited to dine on a bold and beautifully prepared array of comfort foods highlighted with the right amount of island flair.
Regardless of which menu item you choose, you’ll be happy to know that there’s always a way to supplement your meal with the softly sweet flavors of lychee.
“It’s a Chinese fruit, and it brings an Asian taste into the restaurant scene,” shares general manager David Chang.
While munching away on Epic’s house favorites, why not order a Lychee Martini ($7) to accompany your dish? As a customizable libation, the cocktail packs the same burst of flavor that comes from cracking open a fresh lychee shell and slurping up all of its juicy joy.
Made from scratch, Lychee Martini also may be enjoyed for only $4 during happy hour, which takes place Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Epic ensures that your meal will end on a sweet note with its fresh sherbets, including Lychee Sherbet ($5). This frozen dessert of epic proportions makes you feel as though you’re eating chilled lychee straight from the fridge. And as a supporter of locally made products, the restaurant gets its sherbet from Dave’s Hawaiian Ice Cream.
With that, go ahead and elevate your love for lychee by trying these creative takes on this delicious fruit.
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