Posted by: kauaikolea2 | July 2, 2011

Holy Mauna Loa! What is “Crack Seed”?


You are a first-time visitor to Kaua’i and as you stand at the cash register line at a grocery store or restaurant or other place, your eye catches packages of “crack seed”.  Whoa!  “Crack”?  In flavors? Holy Mauna Loa!

Yes, we openly buy, sell, and enjoy “crack” here on island …..crack seed, that is.

So what is “crack seed”?

Crack seed is a generic term for snacks that originated in China.  Crack seed is preserved fruits, of many assorted kinds, with the seeds of the fruits cracked open to enhance flavor. When Chinese  immigrant workers came to the islands in the 1800s, they brought their customs and foods, including crack seed.  Crack seed can be salty or sweet or sour, or a combination of all these tastes.

Almost all Hawaiians who were born and raised on island, particularly before Hawaii became a state, have fond memories of purchasing paper cones or small paper packages of crack seed from local stores or the cafeteria ladies at school.

You probably are not inclined to make your own crack seed at home, but here is a recipe in case you want to give crack seed-making a try.  In any case, while on island, purchase a bag of crack seed and try it.  You will have something exotic to discuss beyond poi!

Homemade Crack Seed

1 lb dark brown sugar

3 T Hawaiian rock salt (if not available, use Kosher salt, not regular salt)

3 T bourbon rum (made on Kaua’i)

1 T Chinese five-spice powder

2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice

8 (12-oz) packages of pitted prunes

2 (12-oz) packages of dried apricots (or mixed dried fruit for variety)

1/2 lb dried Chinese lemon peel, cut into small pieces

1/2 lb seedless salty dried plums (called li hing mui)

In a very large bowl, combine the sugar, salt, bourbon, five-spice powder, and lemon juice. Tip in prunes and apricots (or dried fruit), lemon peel, and li hing mui.  Allow mixture to steep for a minimum of 4 days, stirring twice a day.  Store in covered gallon container and enjoy when you need a bit of island.

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