Monday, July 23, 2007

The land of desserts and tropical fruit

Spitgirl here. For those of you who haven't seen my posts in the past, I am a 2nd generation Chinese immigrant to the United States. Rhonda asked me to make the occasional cultural post, posting a little about my own memories of growing up in a Chinese family, as well as recording little phrases in Mandarin. We called this the "Little Maple Project," and although I've been really lax in the past couple of months due to grad school, preparing for a wedding, and training for my next belt test in my martial arts, I decided I'd make a brief post, mostly because I've become nostalgic in my old age.

I was checking out at the register in the lunch room at work today when I noticed a small box and a sign, "FREE TRIAL - Fresh Lychee. 1 cup, $2.95" Holy cows, I thought to myself. NO WAY. I've been back to Taiwan about a dozen times in my lifetime, and one of the greatest delights I had was the wonder of fresh lychees. I could sit for a half an hour and eat a bunch by myself - first, by shelling the thin peel off, then popping the entire fruit in my mouth, carefully eating the sweet, tender flesh and spitting out the large seed afterwards. The taste is perfectly sweet which comes in a burst of flavor.

For the longest time, we couldn't get lychee in California. Then came the canned variety - sticky sweet and oh so delightful - but not quite as good as the real fruit. And then, finally, about ten years ago, we were able to get the lychee fruit imported. Sheer bliss...

As a rather odd anecdote, since lychees are spherical and white, my dad explained carefully to my brother and me that the eyeballs in Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom were actually floating lychees in soup. We had gone to see the movie together, and he couldn't cover our eyes fast enough. For some reason, I clung to that explanation and wasn't really terrified by that scene at all. (He did manage to cover our eyes for the scene where the priest rips out the heart of the slave, though. I am eternally thankful he did.)

Thinking about this particular fruit also leads me to post about my favorite childhood dessert - xing4ren2do4fu (almond jello). I can't make it the way my mom used to make it - buying agar at the store, adding milk and almond paste... now there are boxes for these things. So here is my recent memory of how to make almond jello:

- Buy a box of almond jello mix from an Asian grocery food store. Prepare in a large glass lasagna pan and let it set overnight
- Cut into cubes and place in bowl
- Add canned fruit (the kind with maraschino cherries - that's important), including the juice from the can. You might want to add some water to bring down the sugar content, particularly for kids
- Serve chilled in small bowls, preferably with Chinese soup spoons.

I know, step 1 doesn't sound too glamorous, but the end dessert is sweet, chilled, and perfect for a warm summer night. As for the cherries... my siblings and I used to fight over how many cherries we would get in a bowl of this dessert. I guess you can use any kind of canned fruit, but mom would just buy the kind that had multiple types of fruit.


redmaryjanes said...

I had no idea that you are from a Chinese family. Shouldn't that help with the waiting?

spitgirl said...

RMJ - just to clarify: 1. I am not Rhonda, and 2. I am not adopting. That's why I started with "Spitgirl here..." :) Hopefully that helps!

Lisa said...

Thanks for sharing those memeories. I had no idea you could buy almond jello. I love almonds and am heading out the market tomorrow in search of. Thanks again for posting.


Robin said...

thanks for the post. It was really interesting to read that Lychee has a nut similar to our state "nut" the buckeye.

Almond jello.. hmm. sounds interesting. Especially with the fruit added.

Thanks so much for the post Spitgirl!

crazylady said...

It is so awesome that you found the time to share your memories with us (via Rhonda) aka CNN. Lychees are sweetly deeeelish!
We all like to ride Rhonda's train.

Janet said...

Now I REALLY want to try a LYCHEE!!! They have them at my grocery store and I was never sure. I will for sure try it!

Almond jello? Odd. But then again, I don't really like Jello......:-) said...

I thought Chinese nationals/background had prefrence, however my neighbor is a Chinese national and they are going on 15 months from LID. Crazy.

Donna Paonessa said...

Yummmmm.....I LOVE lychees! Have to try the almond jello.