Concerning potentially mythical food items

by Sandra

I was at Trader Joe’s last night, buying ingredients for a new recipe I wanted to try: chocolate chip cookies with dried apricots and espresso. While I was digging through the dried fruit and nut aisle for the specifically unsulfured apricots the recipe called for, I came across an item that I had before that time regarded almost wholy as myth.

The item? Dried Lychees.

I stood agog for a moment, staring upwards at the opaque silver pouch that looked suspiciously like a Meal Ready to Eat (or MRE for you militarily inclined). Could it really be the fabled dried lychee? I remembered the first time I had come across an undried lychee — while at the Farmer’s Market with Ernae after a late morning breakfast of waffles. She went crazy for a small bag of what looked like spiney red nuts. Undaunted by the tough skin and the large pit, she begain tearing them apart, savouring the soft white pulp of the fruit and then offering one to me.

The fruit was immediately a pleasure to eat. My fingernail pierced the skin with a satisfying little pop and gave way as I peeled it off to reveal the small, slightly shiny and now totally vulnerable meat. Juicy and oh-so-sweet, I put the whole fruit in my mouth, eating around the smooth, brown, oval-shaped pit before spitting it out into a nearby garbage can.

It was love at first bite and to this day I am tempted to eat an entire container of lychees at once if I happen to find them at the store. I had sworn, sworn that I had once seen a bag of these dried lychees at Trader Joe’s once before, months ago at a store in Redondo Beach and had searched unsuccessfully to find them in any store in the West Los Angeles / Hollywood area.

Even though these lychee fruits were not call for in the cookies, I snapped up one of three remaining bags and ran to the checkout counter. I barely waited until shutting the car door before opening the bag and picking of the dried fruit out. On first inhale, upon lifting the fruit up to my face, I was surprised to sense a bit of a tangy, fishy smell and truly, the first bite was not the experience I thought it was going to be. Lacking the juiciness of the undried fruit, the dried made up for with a surprising subtleness of flavors. After getting over the fishiness, I was greated with the familiar lychee sweetness and something more low key lurked in the background — licorice. After eating several, I noticed that they gave me the same slightly sticky aftertaste of a regular lychee.

So they do exist, these dried lychee fruits. Why are they so hard to find? Why doesn’t Trader Joe’s carry them all over, outside of the South Bay? Perhaps it is their own twisted logic, but I’m glad that I’ve finally tried them. Though, to be honest, I still enjoy the regular, juicy, undried variety better. Check ’em out if you can get your hands on them.

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