Longan - Lam Yai

Longans on sale in a Chiang Mai market.

The longan seems to be the most loved of the many lichee-like fruits available in Thailand. The fruit comes in season a bit later than the lichee. Longans are small, almost spherical fruits with a mottled light brown to beige colored skin. Like the lichee, the skin of a longan is thin and leathery. The English name for the fruit must be related to the Chinese word for it, long-ngan, which means "dragon eyes." Unlike the lichee, the Chinese believe the longan to be nourishing and healthful, without contributing to the body's "imbalance" of yin and yang. In fact, the longan is a favorite food of Chinese women who have just given birth. Longans are rich in iron in a form which is easily absorbed by the body.

There are two main varieties of longan sold in the markets. See Chompoo or "pink colored" is the most highly prized. As its name implies, the flesh has a slightly pinkish color to it. The other type, Beeo Keeo, looks similar on the outside, but the flesh is more greenish.

Another fruit looks very similar to the longan, and in Thai it's known as long tong. Long tongs are larger than longans and generally much sweeter. For this reason, the fruit is usually much more expensive than the longan.