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