WHAT IS CRACK SEED?
What on Earth is Crack Seed???
|Li Hing is the phonetic of the Chinese characters . It is neither Mandarin nor Cantonese, but is a dialect of Zhong Shan. The characters literally mean "travelling plum", reflecting the early consumption of these seeds by long-distance travellers.
Hua Mui is the Cantonese phonetic of the characters . In a social tradition that still stands today, friends gather and snack on roasted sunflower seeds or crackseeds while chatting or playing cards. Literally, the characters mean "talking plums", that is, plums eaten while chatting.
Crack seed, a popular local snack in Hawaii, comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. Also known as Li Hing Mui or See Mui, crack seed is actually a variety of dehydrated and preserved fruits. If you've never tried this local favorite, read on!
Why Preserve Fruit?
Before canned goods were available, merchants heading west across the rugged terrain of China carried dehydrated fruits to supplement their meals of plain rice. The salt in crack seed was useful for long distance travelers in several ways: besides replenishing the salt lost by the body in perspiration, it also helps the body retain water and lessen muscle cramps.
The concept of fruit preservation is simple: salt absorbs the natural moisture in fresh foods and inhibits the growth of germs that need water to survive. Salted seeds can be stored for extended periods of time. Moreover, crack seed had the desired illusion of quenching thirst.
Fruit preservation is not limited to just the Chinese: early Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish also supplemented their plain meat and potatoes meals with generous amounts of "sweets and sours" such as homemade jams, jellies, preserves, pickles, and relishes. Preserving fruits (like olives) was one way of making seasonal fruits available year round. It was also an exercise of frugality: supplementing a meal with pickled fruits made larger amounts of starch go a long way, as can be seen from the use of chutney in India, kim chee in Korea, and ume in Japan.
And some foods just taste better preserved; the natural flavors and textures of fruits are augmented and complementary to the complex and overlapping flavors of spices and other preservatives.
Hawaii's Snack of Choice!
"For generations of Hawaii kids, the local equivalent of a trip to the neighborhood candy shop has been a visit to the crack seed store". --Floyd Takeuchi of the Honolulu Star Bulletin, 1989.
Crack seed was introduced to Hawaii when the first Chinese plantation workers arrived; they were used in meals because vegetables and meat were too expensive for plantation workers to afford on a daily basis. In the mid 1800's crack seed was commercialized to the general population as inexpensive snacks.
Crack seed was first shipped and sold directly from mainland China but storeowners in Honolulu's Chinatown gradually began to customize seeds for local taste buds. Many locals have fond childhood memories tied to crack seed. A local recounts: "As kids, we would pick crack seed from giant glass jars and put them in a little paper sack to share or swap with friends at lunchtime. After they done with the bag, they even go lick on the paper sack so they no waste any. The ones who no care, like me, would stuff them in our pockets and suck on them while making trouble around the block, roller skating, or doing bike tricks in the back yard!"
The Crack Seed Center
It is not just nostalgia that keeps sending customers back for more. The Crack Seed Center, one of Hawaii's most popular crack seed retailers for over 50 years, has created new products, expanding its offerings to include Li Hing Mangoes, Li Hing Guavas, Li Hing Strawberries, Li Hing Arare, Li Hing Candies (with our specially created Li Hing Mui Powder) and much, much more!
The Crack Seed Center has a loyal following of customers in the mainland and abroad. Our gift packages are great for college students, birthdays, and Halloween treats or Easter baskets for loved ones away from home.
The Crack Seed Center will hand pack your order as soon as we receive your request. We are a thriving business with a constant flow of satisfied customers, guaranteeing you a fresh batch of quality products shipped to your home by priority mail!