Winter in Chinese cooking calls for warm things, and that is what today’s recipe is all about. Whenever we get the chills or feel like a cold is coming on, or even if we just want to warm up our toes, I make a pot of Longan Tea.
This is the traditional Chinese way of using food as homemade medicine – chicken soup is Mom's penicillin the world over, it seems. Today's recipe is like that, but also much simpler and very, very tasty. Both the fruit and the ginger in this recipe are considered warming and good for the blood, and so new mothers are encouraged to enjoy bowls of it and other nutritious meals during their month of recovery. This wonderful custom is called "a month of sitting" (zuòyuèzi 坐月子) because folks like her mother, mother-in-law, aunties, and other female relatives are supposed to wait on her hand and foot.
|The fleshy & aromatic fresh fruit|
Longans are sold fresh at the end of summer and mark the end of the lychee season. They look a bit like lychees (or litchis) in that they have a white flesh, hard brown pit, a thin leathery shell, grow in clusters, and come from the tropics. But the flavor, texture, and moisture content are completely different. While lychees are really fleshy, juicy, and have a light, almost sparkling juice, longans have a thinner, drier flesh that is deeply perfumed.
I adore this dried fruit, and when I can find packages of this year's freshly dried longans, I snack on them as is or mixed with other dried fruits, like wolfberries, raisins, and so forth. I sometimes even add walnuts or almonds to lend a bit of crunch. Think of this as Chinese trail mix.
The mercury around here has finally decided to drop a bit, so I've pulled out my jar of dried longans from last year. They are a bit dry and shriveled, but again, since they're going to be popped into boiling water, their condition at this point doesn't matter a whole lot.
Longan tea with fresh ginger
Lóngyǎn jiāng chá 龍眼薑茶 or guìyuán jiāng chá 桂圓薑茶
All over China
Makes around 8 servings
1 cup (or so) dried pitted and peeled longans
8 cups water
1 tablespoon finely shredded peeled ginger
Brown sugar, agave syrup, or honey to taste, optional
|Ginger and dried longans|
2. Reduce the heat to low, add the ginger, and slowly simmer the longans for about 30 minutes. Taste and add some sweetener, if you like. Serve this hot, although you can store it in the fridge for a couple of days before serving - as with almost all soups, it tastes even better that way.