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Jul 20, 2006 08:25 AM

Fresh Lychees @ Asia Mart in Santa Rosa

Following up on Pete's tip about Asia Mart, last weekend I stopped by its new location.
I was surprised to find a Chinese-owned pan-Asian grocer and gift shop of this size. No, it's not as big or fully stocked as Ranch 99, but it is about three times the size of the typical Chinatown storefront.

Most of the foodstuffs are dry, packaged goods arranged on Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. aisles. I counted five different brands of sweetened condensed milk, as an example of the depth of selection here. It also has well-stocked freezers with specialty foods. What I was especially pleased to see were the number of fresh produce items including ong choy and many Chinese brassicas, such as yu choy that I haven't seen around here before. And, on the counter next to the cash register, fresh lychees for $2.99/pound, the good kind with the green tinge.

Asia Mart
2481 Guerneville Rd. (at Fulton
)Santa Rosa
Open 7 days a week, 8:30am to 7:30pm

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  1. There are three kinds of fresh lychees that I've seen in the Bay Area. The ones carried by most or all 99 Ranch markets that are on the spikey side, more brown or green than red for the most part, are supposedly imported from Taiwan. They tend to be less plump and have bigger pits.

    SF Chinatown is one of the few places that has lychees imported from China. These have smaller pits, more meat in them and when in season they can't be beat. Generally a nice light red shade.

    Believe it or not some Bay Area markets have (i should say had as it was a while since I saw them) a variety of lychees that if I am not mistaken are from Florida. I can't remember if I last saw them at the Milk Pail Market in Mountain View area near Dittmers, or was it Irving & 22nd in SF. Perhaps the farm was elsewhere or it was the location of the distributor but I did see the Florida state on the package sticker (plastic box like the ones to hold strawberries). Looks like a bit of a cross between the Taiwanese lychee in shape (less rough exterior texture) with a hint of Chinese lychee shade.

    Anyone know what I'm talking about?

    3 Replies
    1. re: K K

      I get the ones in the plastic carton you described at Trader Joes in San Diego, imported from Mexico. They usually have two kinds, the greenish ones with the small pit (they sell out quickly) and the spiky red/browns. I think they were about $3/lb.

      1. re: K K

        My Hispanic corner store has them, 23rd and S. Van Ness, SF.

        1. re: K K

          yes, some farmers have been growing lychees AND longans in Florida(and also somewhere in California last I heard, dunno if this is true) for about 10 years. I haven't had Florida lychees lately - I bought some in Chicago a few years ago and they were okay, I'm hopeful that they'll get better as the farmers get more used to cultivating them.

          I've been buying fresh lychees from Marina in Cupertino for several weeks - these are mostly green with a red tinge and fairly small cores. plump juicy and addictive

        2. A few weeks ago I found some exceptional Lychees at monterey market. They were ripe and had small seeds. Very satisfying.