One of my favorite treats growing up in Hawaii was "crack seed." What is "crack seed" you ask? Crack seed is a Chinese concoction brought to Hawaii during the 19th century...when Chinese immigrants came to work in the sugar cane and pineapple plantations. It is preserved fruits that have their seed or the pit cracked to enhance the flavor. Another popular name is "li hing mui" pronounced lee-hee-moi. The li hing powder is made with plum extract, sugar, salt, licorice extract, artificial coloring such as FD&C Yellow #5 and Red #40, and often the sweetener is aspartame. This powder is sprinkled on the preserved fruit to make the "crack seed." When I was little, only the preserved fruit was made this way but nowadays everything from gummy bears, sour gummy worms, sour watermelon candy, sour patch kids, shave ice, sour apple candy, rock candy, popcorn, and Japanese crackers known as arare are sprinkled with the li hing powder. There are even li hing mui martinis served in Hawaii.
Brea and I venture to Kaimuki's Crack Seed Store. I have never been to this store before but read some great reviews on yelp. It is a little hole in the wall shop...the way I remember alot of places in Hawaii during my "small kid time."
Just looking at these jars made our mouths water for the taste of these little goodies. What is the taste like? It's sweet to salty to sour all at once...with the texture of preserved fruit which can be dry or wet. It's that tart taste that gets you right in the back of the jaw.
The lady who runs the shop is so nice...she let us taste all the ones that looked interesting to us and told us about the store's favorites...starting at top and going to the right of the picture here are the ones we picked...sweet li hing mui (classic plum)...sweet ginger (sweet and a little tangy ginger...great for when you have a sore throat)...li hing dried strawberries (oh la la...these were our new favorite)...red chili li hing mui (not only sweet, salty, sour but spicy too!) and the wet li hing mix of mango, plum, and strawberries (simply delicious!)
We tried one more treat...a strawberry li hing icee...a regular strawberry icee with li hing juice and a plum. It was different...I wasn't too sure about it...but I had to keep tasting it...not something I want to drink alot of but it was a flavor I liked...Brea loved it. With our goodies in hand, we headed back to the other side of the island to Kailua Beach, where we spent the rest of the day reading and eating our goodies in the sun.