Lychees, Longan, Rambutan!

Asian Tropical Fruit Salad Recipe

A beautiful Asian tropical salad with a pineapple “bowl” – canned longan, lychee, rambutan paired with some fresh tropical fruits.

Some of my favorite fruit come in cans. I’m not talking about tasteless, mushy pears or the stained red maraschino cherries, but the Asian stuff like lychee, longan and rambutan. These are fruits that I can rarely find fresh in the Tampa Bay markets where I live, so it’s nice to have a tinned alternative. When mixed with other tropical fruits like mangoes, kiwi and pineapple, it becomes a super way to end an Asian inspired meal.

Actually, you won’t find many sweet desserts in my cooking repertoire, as I really like to end my dinner with refreshing, light fruit like lychee, longan and rambutan instead of a heavy, overly sweet baked dessert. You’ll find that true in most of Asia, too. Oh, but don’t think that I don’t have a sweet tooth…au contraire! My sugar rush happens twice a day: smack dab in the middle of the afternoon (nothing accompanies work procrastination better than chocolate!) and then in the tippy-toe-wee hours after all is shush-quiet and I sneak a teeny bite of chocolate right before bed.

Oh, I’m getting sidetracked, aren’t I? Back to fruit. Let’s talk a bit about each type of canned goodness: the lychee, longan and rambutan

Continue reading ASIAN FRUIT SALAD RECIPE and learn why my kids go BONKERS for fresh rambutan!


lychee fruit

Fresh lychee photo from – they have step by step photo on how to peel lychee

Lychee (or Litchi) is pronounced “lie CHEE” in Cantonese and is found in all parts of Southeast Asia and southern China. And yes, you can grow lychee here in Florida too, as it prefers a tropical climate. The fresh fruit has a thin, red, bumpy skin and the good quality lychee is sweet with a small seed. The canned versions are packaged in sugary water, which I always reserve as they make excellent juice for lychee martinis or added to champagne (ah…but for another column). Lychee has a delicate, floral taste, similar to the texture of peeled grapes.


Longan Fruit

photo from Wikipedia

The name in Chinese means “dragon’s eye,” and is my personal favorite of the bunch. I love the firmer texture and honey-like flavor. Fresh longans are smaller than lychees, and have a brown, leathery skin that easily peels off. Mom also uses dried longan in savory soups, as it has many health properties. When my brother, Jay, and I were kids, we used to pop a longan on each of our fingers and chase each other around the house.

Longan is pronounced “long AN” in Cantonese.


Rambutan Fruit

Photo from me! I found fresh rambutan last year at the Asian market.

This Southeast Asian fruit one is my kids’ favorite, not because of the sweet fruit itself, but for the hairy skin the times I can find rambutan fresh:

rambutan_bear_hatrambutan hat

oh, yeah, the kids had a ton of fun with the rambutan “hats”

When I can find rambutans fresh, the skin is like a soft, hairy, ticklish ball! In fact, part of the name “rambutan” means “hairy” to the people of Malaysia. The canned version taste similar to longan, but is more oval in shape. Sometimes you’ll see the rambutan stuffed with pineapple bits, which is whatI like.

To make a tropical fruit salad, try combining any of these canned fruits with whatever fresh fruit your market has!
Asian Tropical Fruit Salad

Asian Tropical Fruit Salad

To make the pineapple ring (it’s not really a bowl – there is no bottom), lop the green, spiny head off of the pineapple and the bottom stem off. Cut the pineapple into 3-4 pieces, crosswise. For each piece, use a small paring knife to run all along the inside edge of the pineapple. Push out the flesh to use in your salad (you’ll have to also cut the fruit off the tough, center core before adding to the salad). Place the ring on the plate and fill with fruit salad.

One can rambutan, drained
One can lychee, syrup reserved
One can longan, drained
1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
1 mango, cut into chunks
2 kiwi fruits, cut into small chunks
1 pint strawberries
juice of ½ lime
fresh mint leaves, julienned (optional)

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and toss. You can add the reserved lychee syrup to the fruit bowl – it’s more of a sweet water, not like a sticky syrup. In fact, any of the syrups from the longan, lychee or rambutan can be used and mixed into other fruit juices or in place of simple syrup in mixed drinks. Try it mixed with sparkling water!

Serves 6-8

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Comments 37

  1. Keli

    Wow! This looks so fresh and tasty! – I so need to try to whip this up. Hopefully I’ll be able to find these kind of fresh fruit in Texas. And I absolutely LOVE lychee! ~ reminds me of home.

  2. Kate

    Jaden, you’re my hero – I’ve got pineapple chunks in the fridge atm, and I’ve got a can of lychees in the pantry begging me to be used. Until now, I had no idea what to do with them. Now I have at least one idea!


  3. Denise

    I have always wondered about the Lychee and rambutan fruit when I’ve seen it at the supermarket. I have also seen the canned variety as well. I will now make a point to try them. They sound delish!

  4. Deb

    We first had lychee and rambutan in Hawaii (along with the best pineapple EVER) and your salad reminds me of gentle breezes and the sound of waves shushing up onto rocks. *sigh*

    I hadn’t even looked for these canned, never thought the quality would be worth the investment. Thanks for the encouragement to give them a try here at home.

  5. Annie

    I miss my fresh tropical fruit! *sniff* If your kids like rambutan, you have to make it to Malaysia where they have a shorter stubbier hair version called “Pulasan”. It’s even more delicious.

    Love the fruit salad combination!

  6. Dave Harralson

    You dun brung back da memories!
    When I worked in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China, we would buy bunches of lychee just off the trees, lychees so ripe they would burst open if you slightly squeezed them. How wonderfully good! We would eat them by the seaside, have spitting contests with the large seeds, and then wash our sticky hands in the South China Sea.

    I’d also add a can of JACK FRUIT to the mix. We’d dump all these fruits into half a small hollowed Asian watermelon. We would place the other hollowed half on top the first half, duct tape them together, put the rejoined watermelon in plastic bags–doubled or tripled because of weight–and off we’d go to a picnic. No better dessert!

    Thanks for letting me reminisce.


  7. Diana

    I love lychee! The church I grew up in in Hawaii had a couple lychee trees next to it and we’d always snack on it between or after services. Mmmm, I miss fresh tropical fruit.

  8. Mariz

    Boy! I’m want those fruit now. Where did you get those picture? I can eat those fruit every day. Looking at it make me want to go home. I love tropical fruits.

  9. Luna Pier Cook

    Hey, wait a second now … you mean … strawberries are tropical? We have strawberries here in the frigid tundra that is Michigan … and it’s in … I’m in … the tropics?? Who knew??? Maybe someone should tell the damn weatherman! Wait, lemme get my parka and mukluks …

  10. Nila Rosa

    Yum. This entry makes me miss the exotic fruits in the Philippines. I’ve been on the search for lanzones for years, but can’t seem to find any. Boo.

  11. Cakebrain

    you poor thing…you can’t get these asian fruits fresh? in Vancouver we can get every one of those fruit fresh in our Asian markets or in Chinatown. Rambutan, mangosteen, mangoes, papayas, dragon fruit, jackfruit/durian, lychees, longans, loquats, you name it we’ve got it! nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah… 😛
    but I still prefer the canned lychees and longans because they’re in syrup! hee hee!

  12. Momgateway

    That looks so lovely, Jaden! What a coincidence .. this week I also posted a tropical fruit salad recipe at You might wish to check it out….it’s simple, delicious and refreshing, though maybe not as exotic and elegant as yours… In the tropics, strawberries are not native but when they do grow up in the mountains where conditions are a bit more temperate, they’re smaller and sweeter than what we have here in the U.S.

  13. Chez Us

    We are always looking for something sweet for after dinner that will not sit on our hips for the next week. This is beautiful. Love the idea!

  14. Emski

    Just delurking…
    Really enjoy all your wonderful ideas. Out of these fruits I especially love rambutan and your photo of it is gorgeous – I saw some in the Chinese grocery shop near my work the other day and think I’ve now been inspired to buy some…

  15. Tammy (BFW)

    Looks yummy! I was actually able to be fresh Longan this summer in Chinatown (in Boston). They were good, but I definitely prefer fresh Lychee… my favorite ingredient for fruity martinis!

  16. Pepy

    You just reminded me of my childhood where Rambutan and Longan were my regular fruits 🙂

    Here, both fruits are damn expensive in Canada.

  17. Heidi / Savory Tv

    Stellar photo, it looks like summer! Thanks for the confirmation that even serious food professionals use canned fruits, I won’t feel a pang of guilt next time I purchase them 🙂 The longans on your fingers, that reminds me of the film Amélie, where she is eating the berries off of her fingers!

  18. Murasaki Shikibu

    I miss Rambutan. There was a Chinese lady who had a nice Rambutan tree in our neighborhood in the Philippines and the kids were always trying to steal her Rambutans but she was a very formidable guard of her tree and she always caught us. She basically told us that we had to ask for permission if we wanted her Rambutans, so we asked…and you know what she said: NO. lol

  19. rita : )

    i miss rambutans. i love those. i used to play with the peel when i was a kid. i’m sure if they have those here in germany – it would cost me an arm and a leg and a slice of my liver. oi… time to visit asia!

  20. rxgator

    Fresh rambutans are really tasty. I had no clue that they tasted similar to lychee. First time I bought them this guy had this little produce stand set up in the parking lot of Pho 88 restaurant in Orlando. I picked up a couple of pounds for like $10. Plus I didnt get a nosebleed like I do with fresh lychee. Do I dare talk about how lychee and logans are “yang” foods? Nah.

  21. Farina

    How lucky that you found fresh rambutan. Im not sure if I have seen them here. But pineapple stuffed rambutan is also my fav and I always have a can of that at home. Bought some ‘fresh’ longan once but they were a bit gooey and watery. Yikes!

  22. pritya

    Hi Jaden, always a pleasure to visit your blog. The pics look totally inspring…thanks for sharing the recipe. Cheers

  23. Mrs McIntyre

    Can I use the picture of the lychees in my coursework. If okay, would it be okay if it went in the public domain?

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