One of my fond memories of UK Chinese restaurants is the toffee fruit dessert served with ice cream. You can get it in Australia, but it’s not quite as common or popular as in the UK. Most restaurants serve toffee apple or toffee banana, but I have seen lychee before and theoretically you can do it with any firm fruit that can withstand deep frying. Pineapple and pear would probably also be good options.
The recipe is not the easiest thing to do at first, but once you work it out, the results are so worth it. My first attempt does look a bit clumsy and messy, but the guests loved them. Now I know what to do, next time the presentation will be better.
You can prepare and deep fry the fruits in advance to save time. The batter is enough to coat two apples, a banana and a can of lychees, it is fairly thick and made up of:
100g plain flour
1 large egg – beaten
1 tablespoon of peanut (groundnut) or corn oil
120 ml water
I used a large high sided frypan to fry my fruits but you can also use a wok, saucepan or deep fat fryer.
To prepare the fruits:
Apples – peel and core the apple then cut into 8 wedges
Lychees – peel and stone fresh lychees, for canned lychees, drain them well (make sure there is no liquid in the centre) and pat them dry with kitchen paper.
Bananas – cut them into chunks – I used zig zag cuts along the length of the banana.
Coat the fruits in batter and deep fry them in an unflavoured oil e.g. corn oil or peanut (groundnut) oil. Make sure that the fruit is fully coated with batter – a thicker batter helps with this. Fry the apple and banana for about 4-5 minutes turning frequently until the batter is a light golden brown. The lychees take a bit less time. Drain them on kicthen paper to keep them as crispy as possible.
If you are not serving them straight away – once all of the pieces have been fried, allow the oil to cool, sieve it to get rid of any debris, and keep the oil for the second frying.
When you are almost ready to serve re-fry the fruit pieces in the hot oil for just a minute to warm them up and get them crispy again.
Now the tricky bit, have a bowl of iced water ready and some sesame seeds handy.
In a wok or saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of groundnut or corn oil. Add 9 tablespoons of white caster sugar and dissolve it in the oil over the heat. It may take on a strange appearance and look like white lumps, but persevere – keep stirring all the time and don’t overheat it. When it is ready it will turn a pale golden brown. Quickly coat the fruit pieces in the caramel, remember as you put the fruit into the caramel it will start to cool, so work quickly, then drop each piece into the iced water which will immediately set the caramel and then place the pieces on a serving plate.
Tips – if you are using a spoon to transfer your fruit from the caramel to the ice water, don’t let the spoon touch the ice water or your toffee fruit will stick to the spoon. Warm your spoon(s) first so that you are not dipping cold spoons into warm caramel. The Chinese use chopsticks to do this – so if you are a dab hand with chopsticks…maybe try them.
I am not quite sure if it is best to add the sesame seeds to the caramel while the fruits are being coated, or afterwards when they are on the plate. I think that they stick better if you add them to the caramel.
I placed my platter on the table and everybody just used their fingers to serve the fruits straight to the mouth – it was a lovely communal food moment. They are delicious with vanilla ice cream. As you can see from my picture, some of my lychees popped out of their batter coating. I think this was because they were not 100% covered in batter, so next time I will make sure that they are fully coated.