Longans (Dimocarpus longan) aren’t lychees at all, but they have a place in my heart, nonetheless. The opening day ceremony for the Peak Café in Hong Kong in 1990 was under a dragon eye tree, a site chosen by the Shinto priest because my company was called Freedragon and the site of the restaurant is the birthplace of Hong Kong’s dragons. That this fruit’s local name is “dragon’s eye” and that it is said to promote a healthy sexual appetite certainly did nothing to deter our enthusiasm for the site.
The longan looks like a fresh lychee, but the taste is perfumed beyond any lychee. Pop a whole one in your mouth, as I did every morning in Hong Kong, and you might believe that the old Chinese saying is true!
I find the big meringues—like the superb pavlovas from Australia (filled with tropical fruits and cream), or the vacherins of France (filled with ice creams)—a bit difficult to make, so I make free-form round meringue shells and hollow them out. It helps to draw a circle on the parchment paper on which you will cook the meringues, turn the paper over, and spoon the meringue into the outline of the circle.
Southeast Asia has many dishes that use the flesh of half-ripe green coconuts, which are filled with coconut water and in which the white flesh is still gelatinous. One of my favorite things in the world is the fresh coconut milk made by pureeing the flesh together with the water from these young coconuts.
On a steamy hot day, a bowl of the fresh coconut milk mixed with the unripe coconut flesh, dark palm sugar, tapioca, and shaved ice is perfectly soothing and settles everyone down.
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
Whip the egg whites to soft peaks with half the sugar and a pinch of salt in a clean bowl. Gradually beat in the remaining sugar and the cardamom, and continue to beat until the whites are glossy and stand in stiff peaks, about 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes with an electric mixer.
Spoon, or form with a pastry bag, the meringue into the circles making
Boil the water in a pan, add the tapioca, and cook over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Then put the tapioca in a bowl filled with ice water, stir for 1 minute, and drain well.
Simmer the coconut milk until reduced by half, and then chill. Puree the coconut water with the green coconut meat, and mix the puree into the chilled, reduced coconut milk. Add a pinch of salt, then add the tapioca, and mix the whole thing well.
Mix the peeled fruit with the palm sugar syrup. Hold the meringues upside-down, hollow out their centers from the bottom with a teaspoon, and fill the cavities with the coconut-tapioca puree. Put the meringues on individual plates, place the longans around the meringues, and spoon the palm sugar syrup over the meringues.
Instead of the tropical fruit, I love to use stewed rhubarb. Simmer
© 2002 Jeremiah Tower. All rights reserved.