Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rambutans vs Lychees (in season now!)

A rambutan is a fantastic, hot pinkish-reddish-greenish fruit, about 2-3" tall, oval-shaped, hairy on the outside, and common in Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Rambutans, not to be confused with the "Romulans" species from Star Trek, have a juicy flavor and consistency similar to a...GRAPE! Peel the spiky-hairy colorful rind (not sharp/dangerous) and eat the sweet flesh inside. Oh, and avoid pit!
Lychees are another funky-looking fruit, with a pinkish-brownish-greenish rind, about 2" big, roundish, juicy like a grape inside, also with a pit, and common in Asia. Even though they are similar in taste, Lychees are easier to peel and much juicier. My kids always prefer fresh lychees over romulans, oops, I mean RAMBUTANS if they had a choice.
Back to RAMBUTANS. I love staring at these striking, punk-rock, DELICIOUS fire balls.

You almost need a knife (well, I use a knife, not my teeth) to get through the thick crazy rambutan skin. Inside, the rambutan flesh is firm and moist (not dripping wet like lychees) and with a little squeeze, they pop right out of their rinds. Imagine a dense juiceless grape, if you will. Still sweet and delicious!

The rambutan pit is woodlike and big. It is so tree-ish and bark-like, that when you bite off the soft white flesh, it is almost impossible to avoid getting bits of that barky, woody pit - slightly annoying (unless you like wood bits mixed with a grape texture). 
Now, LYCHEES! Even though they look spiky and hardcore, lychee's skin is just bumpy (smooth vs spiky) and super thin. No need for a sharp knife. Just rip/tear with your fingers.
Lychee's pit is solid and smooth and separates from the flesh easily when you bite into it. You aren't left chewing bits of the pit, like you do with the rambutan. Lychees are super sugary sweet, wet, extra juicy, sticky and really messy to eat. Kids LOVE eating fresh lychees!

They are now in season. I found these delicious lychees and rambutans at the Vietnamese market Tay-do (3825 South Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, UT 84119, 801-972-4700).


  1. Thanks Lisa, I'm definitely going to check out this place when I get to Utah. I hope the fruit will still be in season the end of June. I remember eating and loving this when we were in Thailand. Carole

  2. I would expect them to be at most higher-end grocery stores and almost all Asian stores?! -Lisa

  3. I just made the fruit salad with the lime, mint and canned lychees.Do you use the juice that the lychees are in? Thanks, Carole

  4. Yes, use just a little bit of the sweetened lychee liquid, like 2T or less. Use plenty of fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc. Slice the lime in very thin discs. When you add and toss the lychees, the natural juices from the fruit will bring everything together! I add black and toasted sesame seeds to top it off. Tear fresh mint leaves. -Lisa

  5. Too bad I can't have one as a house plant here in Northern Ohio.

    Rambutan AKA Hairy Lychee

  6. Thanks for the tips!...I've always like trying new things but was afraid how and what to eat of it.
    Question: what is star fruit and how to eat it and what does it taste like?
    thanks, S. :)

  7. Star Fruit or Carambola

    The star fruit has five lobes covered in an edible waxy yellow skin. The flavor of the yellow flesh is reminiscent of citrus fruit and varies from quite sour to mildly sweet, depending upon the variety. Some contain small dark seeds in the center.

    Fresh carambolas are often eaten out of hand like most fruits, as well as in salads, although the most popular use by far in the U.S. is for garnishing. Try substituting star fruit for citrus in both savory and sweet recipes.

  8. This is fantastic, we have just finished our short Lychee season here in India. Our Rambutan season starts in March and goes on till September.

  9. To me star fruits taste like apple but with a nicer texture but some are sweet and some are sour, you need to let it ripen ( the green should be mostly gone). Star fruit are delicious and are a great introductory fruit for those new to exotic produce.

  10. I like all of these in juice blends. I also like them freshly picked form the tree. It seems that sometimes it is hard to get some of the trees to grow but if you do get one, it is quite a treat to be able to enjoy the fresh fruits whenever they are in season.