January 28, 2008

li hing mui

Let's just get this out of the way up front: li hing mui is really a borderline revolting food.

I had heard so much about it, how people crave it, how it is the most awesomest flavor since chocolate. And I was hell-bent to try some once I got to Hawaii.

I started out with a passionfruit margarita with li hing mui powder sprinkled in and coated onto the rim with the salt. This was absolutely delightful, and only jet lag and monstrous fatigue kept me from ordering about 5 in a row. For starters, passionfruit + tequila + salt = most perfect cocktail foodnerd can imagine. And the li hing mui gave it a little smoky-tangy kick. I licked the whole rim clean, and loved the whole thiing.

So i had high hopes for the little packets of li hing mui plums, and other things like ginger and mango with li hing flavoring, that I kept scooping up at Longs and at the supermarkets, etc. as gifts for friends back home. Then i figured maybe i better try the damn things before I got too carried away, so I had a little bite of a plum in the airport on the way from Kauai to the Big Island. EEEEW! YUK! I ingested maybe a microgram-sized bite, and it was awful, completely overwhelming, and fake tasting. (I noticed after this that absolutely every single li hing mui product involves aspartame, which i am still befuddled by.)

I scaled it back after that. But i did have a packet of seedless li hing mui plums for spleen and littlelee, and we busted those out a few nights ago. These were slightly less horrible than the seeded ones, but still, spleen made the most appalling faces and ran for the kitchen to spit it out. Littlelee and I could find some pleasure in it, but still that one plum we'd nibbled at got chucked into the trash. I had some li hing ginger for my mom, who loves all ginger things, and she thought it was pretty bad.

So what gives? Why does a tiny bit of the powder do fantastical things for my cocktail, but yet the smallest bites of the dried-fruit forms make even the hardest-core foodnerds run gagging? Are we just Yankee lame-asses? WTF with the aspartame?

I have a packet of the powder, and I will be doing some cocktail experiments as the opportunity arises. But those fruits are all getting the boot, sadly.

Posted by foodnerd at January 28, 2008 01:14 PM

hey there, love all the hawaiian posts, and looking forward to some cali posts as well! i'm told the reason that artificial sweetener was originally added to crack seed is because it intensifies the licorice taste. i think the original sweetener was something more like stevia, which works better with the glycyrrhizin in the licorice, but like, aspartame's easier to find and cheaper. i haven't had cracked seed or li hing fruits in a really long time, i don't know if it has gotten sweeter still in the ensuing years.

Posted by: santos. at February 5, 2008 05:43 PM

oh yay, it's so nice to hear your voice, santos, and to know you actually still read my blog even though i've been completely AWOL for so long! (I am still catching up with everyone's blogs, but I did poke my head in on greenbananas every so often even through the worst of it all.)

my mom reports that the li hing mango i gave her is awesome, but it's a different brand from all the others, so perhaps i just got bad-quality li hing mui. She's going to bring it here for me to try in a week or so, and I'll post an update about it.

I will feel much better if it's not just me, and in fact the stuff we bought was junk.

Posted by: foodnerd at February 7, 2008 05:21 PM

Hi, I can't believe you didn't like the seeds!!!! I LOVE them, but that may be I've been eating them my whole life and I'm Asian. I'm a Li Hing Mui freak, anything Li Hing Mui i'll love, but sadly only a few places where I live sell it.

Posted by: Steph at February 14, 2008 01:00 AM

Hi, I found this entry while googling li hing mui. I live in Hawaii and grew up on li hing mui. The brand and type of li hing mui definitely makes a big difference in taste and some of them can be pretty revolting. For the not so good brands, you pretty much need to have grown up on the stuff in order to even eat it. If you have a good brand, though, the stuff can be wonderful and addicting. Mmm...my mouth is watering already, maybe I'll put some of the powder on some fruit later...

Posted by: Kat at April 15, 2008 02:00 AM

Can anyone tell me if Li Hing Mui is the same as Ling Hi Mui powder?
I have had the Ling Hi Mui powder on a Hawiian Margarita and it was wonderful. Similar to allspice/cloves/starfruit. When I shop at my local Asian market they have Hawaiian Li Hing powder and it has a strange taste and is red in color.

Posted by: susan at May 11, 2008 05:51 PM

I have lots of questions. My son and d-inlaw came back from Hawaii March 08 and raved about li hing mui. So, I ordered some from www.snackhawaii.com. I would love some recipes using the powder. Presumably it's used more in desserts and drinks. I'd be interested to know if there are any chicken recipes for the grill that I could use the powder. It just arrived today and am waiting to purchase a fresh pineapple to sprinkle it on before I open it up.

Posted by: Sherry at May 17, 2008 05:44 PM

I use Li hing Mui on pork loin and pineapple on the grill. While that is grilling I put 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 1 tsb corn starch and Li Hing Mui to taste in a sauce pan and heat till thick. When pork is done place pineapple over the pork and pour the sauce over the whole thing, then slap your momma for not thinking of that sooner! Wonderful taste! A great guest pleas'er for little money and time.

Posted by: Joy at July 23, 2009 09:04 PM

What a shame you didn't enjoy these little treats...I grew up with them when we lived in Japan as a chile and I knew them as cemores/simores...not sure how to spell it...and I still love them...They are an aquired taste for sure...I would caution anyone who would want to try them, but that is just me...!

Posted by: wickedstepmommie at August 5, 2009 11:16 PM

Li Hing Mui is amazing! My first experience with it was on a margarita as well, and I was hooked after that! The Jade brand of Li Hing Mui powder is really good (well that's the one I like anyways). My fave snack are li hing watermelons...they're the sour watermelon candies coated in li hing, so good!

Posted by: Amanda at February 11, 2010 09:47 PM

Try the powder on dried cranberries. It is wonderful!

Posted by: cas at May 3, 2010 12:36 PM

I am a Li Hing Mui addict for sure. I just made a batch of apricot jam and added a tablespoon of li hing powder before cooking. It turned out unbelievably good! I have also made shortbread cookies and added li hing powder with the sugar. Ono!

Posted by: Karlene at July 15, 2010 12:46 AM

i was googling for little packets of li hing powder & got you. the powder & the seeds/plums are really different, as you learned-I think they're different recipes. like you, a lot of my not-from-hawaii friends like the powder but not the seeds. and i agree, brand matters, as well as type (there's sweet li hing mui, salty, wet, etc). if you still have a few of the 'yucky' dried plums, try dropping one in a tequila shot & let it soak a little before drinking & eating. just don't swallow the seed.

Posted by: krise at January 12, 2011 03:05 PM

I'm old skool li hing lover. What is out now is poison. I have no idea why the preserved fruit has aspartame now. But back in the day, li hing was da bomb!

Posted by: Emalani at February 13, 2011 04:36 PM

Li hing is the best snack ever! im from hawaii and i eat it all the time! if you really like the powder then you gotta try the li hing watermelons, its like this gummy candy and its the best. And you can eat the seed with lemon to help with sore throats.

Posted by: Pua at April 19, 2011 10:15 PM

I discovered li hing powdered fruit leather when I was in Hawaii this February. I was bike touring through the islands. It's definitely an aquired taste. Several months later I realized what it tastes like - blood - something that is a very unfamiliar taste to people in Western countries.

I found that it was something of a miracle food while I was cycling Hawaii, in that it really allowed me to drink a lot of water, and have it absorb properly into my body. This is vital if you're exerting yourself every day out in the tropical Hawaiian sun. So, I think Hawaiians like li hing powder for the same reason that Australians like vegemite - it allows them to get vitally needed electrolytes.

I never have liked aspartame, which as you mention, is the standard sweetener. Aspartame makes my body feel a little weird. Like another commenter mentioned, I wish they would use something like stevia instead. I have used dextrose flavored li hing powder, and it seems to disturb the digestion in a way that a non-nutritive sweetener doesn't.

Posted by: Chris at July 10, 2011 03:57 PM

Two quibbles about your web software from the guy who made the last comment:

1. Please remove the filter which says that including an "http" in the URL field is suspicious.

2. Please don't automatically hotlink people's email addresses with a mailto link. I always submit fake email addresses when commenting on people's blogs because this dangerous thing can happen. I guarantee you that in practice, the only person who's going to go ahead and email a person who commented on a blog is a spammer who scrapes websites - gleaning that information out of mailto links.

Posted by: chris at July 10, 2011 04:35 PM

I enjoy ling hi mui crackseeds. It must be something you just simply have to grow up knowing all your life to enjoy. At this moment some kid in Hawaii is sharing their bag of ling hi mui seeds with their friends.

Posted by: at August 4, 2011 08:49 PM
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