Longan

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Peeled longan fruit

The longan (龍眼 Long Nhãn, lit. "Dragon Eye"), is so named because it resembles an eyeball when its fruit is shelled (the black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil/iris). The seed is small, round and hard, and of an enamel-like, lacquered black. The fully ripened, freshly harvested shell is bark-like, thin, and firm, making the fruit easy to shell by squeezing the fruit out as if one is "cracking" a sunflower seed. When the shell has more moisture content and is more tender, the fruit becomes less convenient to shell. In China, it is also called 桂圆 Guì Yuán and in Myanmar, it is called Deer's Eyes.

Other tropical members of the soapberry family include the lychee and the ackee.

Culinary use

The fruit is sweet, juicy and succulent in superior agricultural varieties and, apart from being eaten fresh, is also often used in East Asian soups, snacks, desserts, and sweet-and-sour foods, either fresh or dried, sometimes canned with syrup in supermarkets. The taste is different from lychees; while longan have a drier sweetness, lychees are often messily juicy with a more tropical, sour sweetness. The seed and the shell are not consumed.

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