Lychee granita is a refreshing treat on any hot summer day. I had my first-ever fresh lychee as a little kid when I was vacationing with my family in Hawaii. We were in Honolulu’s Chinatown, and to this day I can still remember the exotic beauty of this fruit, a clear sign that we were in a distinctively tropical place. At the time, lychees were extremely rare to find in the continental US, almost nonexistent with the exception of the canned variety.
Luckily, fresh lychees have become easier to find in the last few years, especially at Chinese markets here in California. When I saw some fresh lychees at Trader Joe’s this week I instantly had flashbacks of being back in Honolulu at the little fruit stand on Maunakea Street. This is a recipe that showcases the lychee fruit’s beauty and delicate sweetness. Trader Joe’s also sells canned lychees, and this recipe uses both.
This granita is simple to make and bright on the palette. I’ve added some Japanese sencha tea to make it even more refreshing. If you decide to make it, just make sure to hang around your freezer for 2 hours or so, otherwise you will end up with one huge block of lychee ice (which you can melt down and “re-scrape” if necessary). Every twenty minutes or so you will be “scraping” until you get a light, fluffy slush. Steeping the green tea in the fridge overnight and making the simple syrup ahead of time will make the process even simpler.
2 cans of lychees in heavy syrup
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon sencha green tea or other loose leaf green tea, or 3 green tea bags
1 large lemon
1 large lime
fresh lychees, lime wedges, lime and/or lemon zest for garnish
1.) Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of water with 1/3 cup of sugar until it comes to a boil and there are no granules remaining. Set this mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
2.) Make a concentrated green tea by heating 1 cup water to 170 degrees F and steeping the green tea for 3 minutes, then remove the tea leaves. Set tea aside to cool to room temperature.
3.) In a large, deep baking dish (8×12) or other similar container, drain off heavy syrup from 2 cans of lychees. Place the drained lychees in a food processor and process until the fruit is well blended, little bits of fruit will remain, which is fine. Add blended lychees to container with heavy syrup.
4.) After the simple syrup and green tea have cooled, add them to the container or dish with heavy syrup and blended lychees. Zest lime and lemon and set aside in a small covered bowl. Juice the lemon and lime and add to the mixture.
5.) Place container in freezer and mix and scrape the mixture with a fork every twenty minutes or so until you get light, fluffy ice crystals. Serve the granita in chilled bowls with fresh lychees, lime wedges, and lemon or lime zest.