These deep pink tropical fruits originally hail from the South East of China but are now grown all across Asian, the Indian Subcontinent and South Africa. They are related to the longan and rambutan - and are collectively given the name "Dragon Eye fruit", due to the black seeds and pale flesh.
Chinese New Year
The Lunar New Year in China is often accompanied by the consumption of fresh lychees (and their cousins Longan and Rambutan). They're eaten for superstitious reasons, symbolising family abundance and togetherness. This has morphed into a seasonal celebration of lychees with everything from tea to biscuits being flavoured with lychees.
As part of the Lunar New Year celebrations, Oreo have reinvented their classic cream filled cookie in lychee form to join in the fun too. The creation features the famous Oreo filling sandwiched between two red lychee flavoured halves, decorated with festive designs and even an Ox's face to mark the bovine year of celebration.
Although the "true" lychee season is from late spring to early August, in reality, the fruit's long life and ease of preservation have made it an all year round ingredient. Having said that, January and February seem to be a big hit with lychee lovers as, alongside the lunar New Year, it has increasingly become a feature of Valentine's Day. Due, in a large part, to its pale pink flesh and its affiliation with other favourites of Cupid's Kitchen.
Also popular in Asia is salted lychee flavour. This sweet/savoury mix is most often seen in drinks, whether as carbonated water, bubble tea, soda or as a milkshake. However, it has also been incorporated into confectionary items as well as ice creams. Whist this flavour is predominantly seen in places such as China, Singapore and Malaysia, it has started to make inroads into Australia and New Zealand.