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Li Hing Mui, A Hawaii Obsession

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Li hing mui is a Hawaii dried plum treat that comes in the form of a seed (for snacking) and powder (for sprinkling on anything from shave ice to fresh fruits). It is sweet, salty, and sour!

Li hing mui powder

What's red, comes in the form of seeds and powder, and is a Hawaii obsession?

Li hing mui! ^_^

What is Li Hing Mui?

Li hing mui are tiny, salted and dried plums that originated in China. They are tangy and sweet and made for snacking. You just suck on them and then throw away the seed.

Li hing mui came to Hawaii in the 1800s (via immigrants who worked on sugar plantations...we also have them to thank for saimin, shave ice, and many local treats).

Li hing mui powder (plus other treats) from Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki (Oahu)

Like all the tasty things we love, we Hawaii-ized it and made it our own. In the US, people associate li hing mui with Hawaii.

The name li hing mui is the phonetic translation of the Chinese characters 旅行梅. In Cantonese, li hing means traveling and mui means plum. The words translate to traveling plum...so cute.

Li Hing Float sherbet from Asato Family Shop!

The dried plum itself is the original li hing mui snack, but today the powder (which is made from grinding up the dried plum) is equally popular because it has many culinary applications.

li hing mui on the shelf at Yama's Fish Market (Oahu)

What does Li Hing Mui Taste like?

Li hing mui is all at once: sweet, salty, and sour. It's a combo of all three in nearly the same proportions. Li hing mui is made from dried plums that have been pickled with ingredients including licorice, salt, red food coloring, and sometimes aspartame. The flavor is very distinct (you'll never mistake li hing mui for anything else!)

Li hing mui pineapples!

Li Hing Powder vs Li Hing Mui

Li Hing Mui refers to the seed. You mainly snack on the seeds, but don't really cook or make things with the seed.

Li hing and strawberry sugarcane juice at Ko Kane (Oahu)

Li Hing Powder refers to the powder that's made from grinding up the seeds. The powder is used for sprinkling on things (eg. shave ice, popcorn, and fresh fruit), mixing into things (like juices and cocktails) or cooking. When you see just the words "li hing" on a menu, people are likely referring to the powder.

Where to Buy Li Hing Mui

Fyi, I’ve included affiliate links below. I may earn a small commission (at no cost to you), if you purchase through the links.

Luckily you can get li hing mui powder and li hing mui online pretty easily. These are my recommendations:

Li Hing Mui Powder:

Li Hing Mui Seeds:

  • Jade Li Hing Mui Dried Plums - Jade is a popular li hing mui company, and these li hing mui seeds are so good for snacking. I always keep a small container (I buy a big bag of li hing mui from Costco Hawaii and then transfer them out to smaller containers heheh) in my tote. You know how ginger is good for motion sickness? I find that li hing mui works the same way for me.

What about "natural" li hing mui? See below...

Li Hing Mui Powder without Aspartame

A key ingredient in li hing mui powder is asparatame. But as people are getting more health/ingredient conscious, many have been seeking out asparatame-free li hing mui powder.

Does it exist? Yes! You can get it from:

  • Tutu's Pantry - Buy it online here. No asparatame but they use food coloring (to get that signature red color of li hing).
  • Grandpa Mui - Buy it in stores at Whole Foods Hawaii. No asparatame and no food coloring, but you won't get that signature li hing red color (which many people consider essential to the li hing experience).

Scooping wet li hing mui at Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki (Oahu)

Wet Ling Hing Mui

Wet li hing mui is such a tasty treat. It's basically li hing mui soaked in a sweet and salty "juice." Everyone who makes/sells wet li hing mui has their own secret recipe. They scoop it up and sell it by the pound.

You know what's REALLY good? If you scoop some wet li hing mui (the seed and the juice) and put it into an Icee (I like Coke Icee + li hing combo, but I know most people prefer Strawberry Icee + li hing combo). More about this at the bottom of the post.

Li hing gummy selection at Foodland

Li Hing Mui Gummy Bears

Li hing mui gummy bears are a big deal in Hawaii! Once you try, you'll be forever addicted. You can buy li hing mui gummy bears at all local supermarkets, convenience stores, and snack shops around town.

Or you can make your own (it's very easy), we posted the Li Hing Gummy Bear recipe here!

It's simply li hing mui powder tossed with gummy bears (here's the recipe). The powder sticks good to the gummy bears. Once you eat gummy bears this way, you can never go back to "regular" gummy bears.

Li hing dried lychee from Carousel Candyland at Kahala Mall (Oahu)

Next step is to try all the other "li hing'd" gummies and snacks. Think li hing sour belts, li hing sour apples, li hing dried mango, and even li hing dried lychee! You can basically li hing anything sweet and fruity, and it will be good.

Li hing mui pineapples at Romy's Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp (Oahu)

How to Use Li Hing Mui

There are so many ways you can use li hing mui! These are the most common:

  • Sprinkle it on fresh fruits. I like chopped pineapples and sliced apples the best. Li hing mui mango is also heavenly!
  • Put it in lemonade, iced tea, or other sweet drinks. The powder gives it this tangy-sweet-salty flavor that is just so tasty. Don't forget to make li hing margaritas!
  • Make Li Hing Pickled Mango! Full recipe post here.

Pineapple shave ice with li hing mui powder at Kaimana Shave Ice (Oahu)

Li hing and pineapple popcorn from Primo Popcorn (Oahu)

How to Store Li Hing Mui

Keep it in an airtight bag/container. You want it in dry storage, away from heat and sun.

Li hing mui, lilikoi, and lychee shave ice at JoJo’s Shave Ice (Kauai)

Where to Try Li Hing Mui in Hawaii

  • Shave Ice Shops - All Hawaii shave ice shops offer li hing mui as a shave ice syrup option. Some places even offer sprinkles of li hing mui powder as a bonus topping. Note: JoJo’s Shave Ice in Kauai makes the most crazy intense li hing mui shave ice ever. They make a super potent li hing syup AND they pour a pureed wet li hing mui topping all over the shave ice. It's wild!

Li hing-sugar malasadas (plus plain sugar and cinnamon-sugar) at Leonard's Bakery (Oahu)

  • Malasada Shops - Malasada are typically dusted in plain white sugar. But some places (like Leonard's Bakery) also make malasadas that are dusted in li hing-sugar! Even the Kahala Hotel offers li hing malasadas.

li hing Coke Icee! Complete with wet li hing sauce and a whole li hing mui. Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki (Oahu)

  • Crack Seed Stores - There aren't too many crack seed stores left in Hawaii, but they are an island treasure. My favorite crack seed store is Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki. Here you can get your ultimate li hing mui fill and buy everything from dry li hing mui to wet li hing mui, li hing powder, li hing'd snacks and the famous li hing Icees! This place is truly magical, and captures the old Hawaii vibes.

Li hing mui gummies at Waiola Shave Ice (Oahu)

  • Supermarkets - Markets like Foodland and Longs Drugs are fully stocked with li hing mui powder, li hing mui seeds, and li hing gummies.

Li hing mui pineapples on the menu at Romy's Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp (Oahu)

  • Shrimp Trucks - popular tucks like Romy's and Giovanni's (those are the two main shrimp trucks on Oahu) both sell li hing pineapples. It makes the greatest post-garlic shrimp plate lunch treat! So cool and refreshing.

Ok, go eat! Have fun ^_^

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Mahalo for Reading!

LEO

Saturday 6th of February 2021

You brought back memories. I eat this as a kid in the Philippines. This is the Asian version of sour candies. My mouth is watering and my lips are puckering just thinking of it. Yummy-yum-yum!

Deanna

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Oh I love these seeds. My grandma was Hawai’ian and Her sister use to send them to her from Hawaii and omg soo good. I tried the wet li Hing mui recently and I’m wondering how long they will stay good once they are opened and put into a zip lock. Thx you

Patricia Bowman

Thursday 12th of December 2019

I have tried yo purchase this for Yeats, grew Iup in Laniki Oahu, now live un Colorado. Would like to purchase this stuff.