Li Hing Mui

You'd never guess that something that tastes so nasty the first time you try it could become such an addictive snack. But in the latest chapter in our pursuit of unusual foods here in Hawaii, that's exactly what happened.

We saw a bag of Li Hing Mui, or salty dried plums, hanging on a rack in one of the gazillion ABC convenience stores here in Waikiki. Why not? we thought, and bought it.


The next thing I know, Laura is sprinting around the apartment yelling, "What an awful, awful food!" It was only later, after a brief but enlightening conversation with our local friend Tammy, that she found out her mistake:

Laura: Have you ever tried, uh, Li Hing... something? My god they are disgusting. I popped one in my mouth and I couldn't believe how awful it was.
Tammy: You're supposed to nibble it.
Laura: Oh.

I'll give Laura credit, she is a tryer. The next day and for the next couple of days after that, she tried nibbling these little salty-sweet-sour buggers. Instead of eating them whole.

Wouldn't you know it, she's now totally addicted to them. And I kind of like 'em too. They are tangy, they have the perfect mix of salty sweetness, and they're covered in an electric red powder, called, not surprisingly, li hing powder.

But unlike more typical American snacks like potato chips or candy, one bite does not taste like another. In fact, it can take five or ten minutes to work your way through one of these dried plums. At that rate, our tiny three-ounce bag is going to last us until we get back to the mainland.

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7 comments:

melissa said...

I'm definitely intrigued. Never even heard of these.

Amanda @ Mrs.W's Kitchen said...

Ooh, neat! You should bring back a bag for a giveaway! (Hint, hint...)

I know what you mean about needing to try some things more than once--that has been my experience with many things that have become favorites.

The Diva on a Diet said...

I'm intrigued too. Sounds like built in portion control! And, not a bad thing to slow things down a bit and really enjoy your snack. Interesting!

Daniel said...

Built in portion control is the perfect expression to use to describe these things. I wish I had thought to write that!

You CAN actually eat just one. :)

DK

Tammy said...

The ones I remember from childhood must be straight up mui, as they were brown. Li hing flavor is BIG in Hawaii. We mix li hing powder with apple wedges and pineapple chunks. Yum! But at a potluck this Sunday I learned that the power is not as good as using li hing mui. A mom with a beautiful name (Kuulei) brought li hing pineapple with REAL li hing mui in it, rather than the powder. You should try it! :)

Emma said...

I just got back from Hawaii actually and I bought a packet of Li Hing Mui, but like your friend I made the mistake of popping them straight in my mouth! I ended up leaving them behind by accident at Tahiti Nui up the road so if I go back I'll definitely give them another go, nibbling at them instead!

Daniel said...

Great story Emma! Thanks for sharing. It is a shock, isn't it?

DK