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Crack Seed Store (Oahu)

Crack Seed Store (located in Kaimuki town on Oahu) is a legendary mom-and-pop shop known for li hing mui Icees and crack seed (preserved, salted fruit snacks made from fruits like plums and mangos) offered by the pound.

Mr. Young and jars and jars of crack seed. My mouth is watering!

What is a “Crack Seed Store”?

Li hing icee (half-coke, half-strawberry), ready to drink

Crack Seed Store

These are both true:

  • “Crack Seed Store” is the name of a store in the Kaimuki neighborhood of Oahu.
  • “Crack Seed Stores” are what you call shops in Hawaii that sell crack seed.

Everyone loves the Crack Seed Store 🙂

What Is Crack Seed?

Glad you asked ^_^ 

“Crack seed” is a very Hawaii term. I’ve never heard of it outside of Hawaii. It refers to a category of salty-sour-sweet snacks centered around preserved fruits (mostly plums, mangoes, and lemons). These are several popular crack seed items:

  • Li Hing Mui (which has many subcategories)
    • Sweet li hing mui, salted li hing mui, red li hing mui
    • Li hing mango, li hing cherry…basically li hing anything
  • Lemon Peel
    • Wet lemon peel, rock salt lemon, li hing lemon peel
  • Mango
    • Pickled mango, dried mango, li hing mango, wet mango

This list could be 100x longer and more details, but you get the point. We’ll do a more detailed crack seed post soon. 

What Is Crack Seed Store?

Crack Seed Store is where you go to buy crack seed. All the crack seed is kept in big glass jars. You just choose the one(s) you want, and decide on the weight (they’re usually sold by the quarter pound).

It’s like the candy-by-the-pound stores in the mall…but better. Much better.

Entrance to Crack Seed Store on Koko Head Avenue

Where Is Crack Seed Store?

Hawaii has multiple crack seed stores (we had a lot more, but many closed in the past decades), and today we are focusing on the Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki.

Kaimuki is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Oahu. My mom’s office used to be in Kaimuki, so I’d take the bus to Kaimuki after school. Get dropped off at 12th Avenue, pick up the latest Archie Comic at Gecko’s (in the original Waialae Avenue location), and then purchase a small li hing icee from Crack Seed Store. Comics and icee in hand, I’d just walk to my mom’s office a block away. What a life!

Scooping up lemon peel crack seed, sold by the quarter pound

What Makes Crack Seed Store Special

Crack Seed Store (like Tasaka Guri Guri in Maui) is a true Hawaii mom and pop business. They’ve been around for over 50 years, operated by the same family (you will see Mr. Young when you are there!), and little has changed in that time. Crack Seed Store was here before I was born and I hope it will still be here long after. 

Talk to anyone who was born and raised in Hawaii and they’ll likely have their own story and memories about the crack seed store

What To Get At Crack Seed Store

We always get two things when we stop by the Crack Seed Store (which we do weekly):

Scooping the li hing mui and li hing mui juices into the icee!

Li Hing Icee

First decide on the size. I get the small size icee. Then decide what flavor: Coke or Strawberry? Did you know you can get both? Yes! Mixed together. That’s what I do. Then, you want to li hing (like it’s a verb) it.  

First he fills the icee cup halfway with coke or strawberry. Then he opens up the wet li hing mui jar and scoops in some of the li hing “juice” AND a single li hing mui (with the seed) into the half-filled cup. Then he fills it to the top with more coke or strawberry icee. Then, pau! Your li hing icee (best thing ever) is ready to drink.

I usually drink the icee first and then save the li hing mui for the very end. Then I suck/chew the li hing mui and spit out the seed. Maybe keep a napkin nearby. This drink is extra amazing on a hot day. 

Several crack seed treats including lemon peel, wet mango, and li hing mui powder

Crack Seed

On every visit I also pick one “treat.” Will it be dried li hing mango today? Wet mango? Perhaps more li hing powder? Wet lemon peel? Perhaps king mui or li hing kakimochi (this one is really good). They have about 90 different types of crack seed, which is pretty amazing.

If you can’t decide, don’t be shy about asking for suggestions. Mr. Young is also super nice with samples if you are curious. I always buy a quarter pound serving of each because I know I’ll be back again next week (and also because I have no self control and if I get more, I’ll eat more). But if I’m going on a long trip, then I’ll load up with multiple treats ^_^

Li hing icees for two 

Crack Seed Store: Insider Tips

  • There are two main parking lots and lots of street parking nearby.
  • They take credit card, but it’s better to pay in cash (especially when you’re getting one li hing icee, it’s only a few dollars).
  • Other walkable places to visit by Crack Seed Store: Pipeline Bakery for pumpkin crunch and hot malasadas, Aki Restaurant for Japanese lunch, Moke’s Bread & Breakfast and Koko Head Cafe for breakfast/brunch.
  • Go-to order: one li hing icee, half-coke and half-strawberry

Crack Seed Store: Info

  • Crack Seed Store | 1156 Koko Head Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816 | 808-737-1022
  • Price: Icee $2.50-3, Crack seed $3.50-6.50 per quarter pound
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday (9am-9pm), Sunday (10am-7pm)

Moki

Sunday 15th of August 2021

Aloha! We live in AZ (formerly from O'ahu-Hawai'i). Nice to see the "old" pics of the Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki. We returned and visited the store and seen that it has "changed"/renovated and Mr. Young is no longer there. Very sad as the memories of how it used to look have also left with him. In all though, the place has a new look and is still busy and that is a good thing. I wish the new owners a very prosperous future and fulfilling business with new memorable moments created that will last a lifetime. Take care! Be safe! Aloha Pono!

Brian Martin

Monday 17th of May 2021

Hi Kathy,

Thank you so much for your blog!

I'm a Hawaiʻi expat now, living in the Pacific Northwest. Your writing brought back so many memories!

I stumbled onto your blog when looking up the definition of Li Hing Mui. I've been snacking on these since "little kid time" without knowing what they were!

When I was a little kid, I attended the Kamehameha Schools, and took TheBus every afternoon to my home just Ewa of the old Waiʻalae drive in. Every so often I would get off at Koko Head and Waiʻalae, the end of the line for the Koko Head bus, stop at the Kaimukī Crack Seed store for an Icee and some sort of crack seed, then walk downhill on Waiʻale Icee in one hand, lemon peel or "horse shit" (that's what we called it, and the owner of the store knew exactly what we meant) in the other. Other days I'd stop at the Chinese bakery across the street, and buy an almond cookie or manapua before heading home.

My, those were such simple days.

Some years later, after spending a few years in the continental US, I bought a home on Maunalani Heights, and at least once a week I would resume my childhood tradition of stopping at either the Kaimukī crack seed store or the Chinese bakery on my way home.

Fast forward, and I'm back in the Pacific Northwest, working for a company on the East Coast, a non-profit that's known in government circles as the real-life version of "Q" branch. I'm involved in fascinating projects, and am basically paid to do innovative work that I love doing. But I REALLY miss my home. And your blog reminded me of some of the many things and experiences that I miss about Hawaiʻi and that I've given up in order to live in a time zone that supports an East Coast job.

Mahalo Nui Loa, Brian

Kathy

Tuesday 18th of May 2021

Aloha Brian! Thank you for sharing such cool local memories, I love it. Kaimuki is one of my favorite neighborhoods...all those small mom and pop shops and speciality food places, what a magical place. You're making me crave almond cookies and manapua now! Thank you so much for reading and hope you make it back home to Hawaii soon :) - Kathy

Jeanne

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

Like Liv, you reminded me of the childhood memory of visiting relatives in Bangkok. Being restless and bored children, my mom would take us to the dried seed store in Bangkok's Chinatown. It looked just like you describe in the Crack Seed store. To a child it looked like something out of Harry Potter with all the jars of shriveled or pickled.....stuff. And there was that distinctive smell too. I always came out with one of three different snacks: hard pieces of dried plum seed covered in li hing powder. It was a precursor to Warheads! Or a chewy dark plum wrapped in colored paper with Chinese characters on the outside. Sometimes they were tied together like a lei. Or a sweet and salty dried and shredded cuttlefish.

I have not eaten li hing in so long. I think the flavor might be too sour for me nowadays. At Thanksgiving, I will have to ask my mom what they called it. That was a fun memory.

Kathy Chan

Thursday 21st of November 2019

Hi Jeanne! Yes, exactly like something out of Harry Potter! That's a genius way to describe it. LOVE the dark plums wrapped in paper, I remember people would sometimes give them for birthday leis at school! And oh man, I completely forgot about Warheads!! Man, those were the days ahahah. So many good memories ^_^ - Kathy

Alan

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

Hi Kathy: Yes, I remember the crack seed stores very well. The one you talked about in Kaimuki was also frequented by me too. My Mom was the school librarian at Liliuokalani Elementary school, just exactly across the street from the Crack seed store. I too, used to do the same things you did. There was another one right by the old Varsity Theatre in Moiliili. My bus route home sometimes required me to transfer in Moiliili and I would sometimes frequent that crack seed store too. Another two favorite "kid time" places of mine were also in Kaimuki, but I forgot the names of them. One of them was a small Mom and Pop general store right next to the old Kaimuki YMCA. I used to practice judo there twice a week. I would go there and buy some kind of treat each time I went to judo. Either it was shave ice, or maybe a dried hot red squid, or that sweet cuttlefish brown papery stuff we used to tear off and eat as a kid. The other place was that manapua shop that was sorta kiddy corner across the street from the crack seed store on Waialae Ave. I think is was actually directly across the street from the old First Hawaiian Bank. I used to buy manapua, ip jai, har gau, siu mai, etc. from that store. They also had crack seed in the big glass jars too, but they were not as famous for their crack seed as they were for their manapua assortment.

Kathy Chan

Thursday 21st of November 2019

Hi Alan! I love all these memories, thank you so much for sharing :) I miss all those young kid times...riding the bus after school, buying little sweet and salty snacks and comic books. My little cousins practice judo, nice to see that tradition continuing. Ahh, such fun memories! - Kathy

Liv

Friday 15th of November 2019

The memories of giant glass jars with all the preserves inside! When I was young, my mom put me to my grandparents’ place at one the small town in Indonesia. They lived at those shophouses and when they were busy tending the shop, I would pop by to one of the shop that look exactly like the shop you posted here to ‘chat’ with the kind aunty... I never failed to return home with at least a candy or my fav sweet preserved olives wrapped in paper... the joy of being the youngest human along the whole stretch of shophouses owned by generous aunties and uncles hehehe... sadly, such shops have closed even in small towns.

Kathy Chan

Friday 15th of November 2019

Hi Liz, What an amazing story/memory! I can picture it in my mind ^_^ You describe that joyous feeling so perfectly. - Kathy