While dried fruit and a candy store may not initially seem like a match made in heaven, the Hawaii crack seed store proves that both can make a local feel like a kid again.
When you think of a candy store, very rarely will you immediately think of dried and pickled fruit, but the Hawaiian crack seed store has long been a staple in the local community and a source of nostalgia for adults who spent their childhoods trolling the aisles of these often family-owned shops for treats.
Crack seed represents a variety of salt-preserved fruits originating from the Chinese, who used them to supplement their meals of rice. The name refers to the fact that prior to preservation, the fruits are often split down to the seed or center as a means of flavor enhancement. It was specifically brought to Hawaii in the 19th century with the first Cantonese plantation workers and eventually became a popular local snack.
One of the first companies to mass market these salt-preserved snacks was Yick Lung in the 1900s, who shipped the fruit treats from China. While a lot of the crack seed products used to be made in China and shipped stateside, Honolulu’s Chinatown has since developed recipes and products for local tastes. Over the years, crack seed has become a term to encompass many different local fruit-related snacks, and crack seed stores are the go-to place for these delicacies.
The snacks of the crack seed store are not light confections. They are often dense and salty-sour. They stain your fingers from pickle juice or leave your hands sticky, preserving not just fruit but also memories. While it might not contain what you normally think of as snack food, it does provide a real, unpretentious taste of the islands.
The old school crack seed store is often laid out with rows of large jars offering preserved fruit by the pound. Pickled mango and apricots bob in a delicious, dark brine. Dried mango, candied ginger, and dried guava taste like candy with their natural sugars crystallizing on their surfaces.
However, if there’s one thing to try at the crack seed store, it’s the Li Hing Mui. Li Hing Mui is a dried salted plum that combines sweet, tangy, and salty all in one. Because of its unique flavor, Li Hing Mui is sold as the whole plum but also as a powder, sometimes even a sauce that can be put on literally everything. Crack seed stores will often feature a variety of gummy candies dusted with the powder or marinating in the sauce. They also offer just the Li Hing Mui in its various states, sold by the pound or pre-packaged, to add to fresh fruit or popcorn in the comfort of your own home.
More recently, many crack seed stores have closed in favor of opening online stores, and many crack seed snacks can be found pre-packaged in local grocery stores like Foodland and Longs Drugs in the candy aisle. But for those looking to get a real taste of local culture, visiting a crack seed store in Honolulu like Crack Seed Store, Kay’s Crackseed, or the stores in Chinatown is an opportunity to support a local business and get a taste of a native favorite.