I’ve been seeing these hyped-up seedless lychees on Facebook groups and online grocers, being touted as premium and consistently portrayed as ‘sold out’, so heck, why not give it a shot?
Lychee season begins in the summer months of May/June and runs till around August; this is when you start seeing an abundance of lychees being sold in the supermarket or online. I was thoroughly impressed with the ‘China Lychees’ I bought from NTUC during this period, so I thought why not splurge on premium lychees since we’re saving on dining out anyway. Thanks, COVID.
My research brought me to an independent, specialty fruit store to find these seedless lychees, which go for a whopping S$60 per kg (roughly 10 times the price of the other common seasonal variety, Fei Zi Xiao).
Surprisingly, the fruit-seller didn’t really know what varietal this lychee is called, but we do know it’s from Hainan, China. As with any seedless fruit, genetic modification or breeding must have played some part here.
I enquired with the fruitseller: “Can I just buy 500g?”
To which a look of shock appeared accompanied by a resounding “no”. It was 1kg or nothing for these seedless lychees as people were snapping them up. Fine, I passed over cash and thought to myself that these lychees better taste as good as a steak for this price.
Fast forward and here I am back home taking photos of these S$60 seedless lychees. I’ve to say the shell’s ruby sheen does look vibrant and very appetising.
Peeling through the shell, I could tell that it didn’t spurt out as much juice on contact. The shell is pretty thin though making peeling an easy effort.
Excitedly, I popped one seedless lychee into my mouth and true to description, there was no seed. It was fairly sweet and a novel experience, since with lychees you never really dare bite through the entire fruit in one go, having to navigate around the seed. But not for this! This was full chomping freedom.
However, after some chewing, my tongue detected something bitter and not exactly resembling flesh. It was the top of the stem where the seed would have grown as circled above. This stem is technically soft enough to chew and swallow whole, but the mild bitterness was a stark contrast to the sweet flesh. I spat it out.
Although seedless, it wasn’t what I imagined as being able to swallow the fruit whole due to the residual stem. I tried a few more lychees and pretty much all of them have this little “stem” thing. Guess there’s nevertheless a limit to GMO.
I had bought a bag of Fei Zi Xiao lychees in the fridge from the last grocery run, so I decided to compare them.
Fei Zi Xiao Lychees
‘China Lychees’ as NTUC cleverly labels them are actually Fei Zi Xiao 妃子笑 lychees, or ‘Concubine’s laughter’ in English. This lychee is abundant in summer and its green and red shell is quite distinct. Regardless of the greenness, it’s ripe and ready to eat. The price for these lychees goes for roughly S$6 – $7 per kilogram.
More often than not, you get the occasional spurt of juices just trying to pry open the thin shell of a Fei Zi Xiao lychee.
A feature of the Fei Zi Xiao is its smaller seed compared to other common all-year varietals, although not completely seedless like the Hainan lychees previously.
I’ve eaten these lychees multiple times so let’s get to the conclusion.
Are seedless lychees worth it?
In terms of fragrance, sweetness, juiciness and price, the in-season Fei Zi Xiao lychees win hands down against seedless lychees. It wasn’t even a close fight.
Sure, there’s that novel element where you can pop the whole seedless lychee in your mouth without worrying about biting on a hard seed, but the existence of a small stem still proved to be an annoyance, just like its exuberant price tag.
So there you have it, Hainan seedless lychees, at S$60 per kilogram, are in my opinion not worth the splurge. I’d rather buy 10kg of Fei Zi Xiao, or even a decent Wagyu steak at this price.
Some extra information; I’ve been told that lychees taste best during the middle of the season, while the tail month ends won’t yield as sweet a fruit. Ideal months for buying lychee would hence be around June and July. Enjoy the lychee season while it lasts!
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