It was literally cracked seed and painstakingly difficult to eat. I would watch my mom dig out all the edible parts (the meat) while plucking out all the cracked parts of the seed inside. That’s how she grew up eating it. For me, that way was ridiculous and too time consuming. I opted for seedless, or whole seeded, rock salt plums, cherry seeds, mango seed, sweet li hing mui and lemon peel. They all offered the same addictive punchy sour, extra salty, hint of sweetness flavor found in crack seed, minus all the humbug work.
During my hanabata days in Hawaiʻi Kai, I frequented three main crack seed stores: Crack Seed Store in Kaimukī, Doe Fang in ʻĀina Haina and Crack Seed Center at Ala Moana Center. My visits to these localized candy dime shops were often to stash up on snacks for a long day at the beach, a bribe from my mom so that when she shopped at Ala Moana my sisters and I wouldn’t whine—and scrap—and sometimes, when my craving got real bad, I would pretend to have a sore throat. Locals know, lemon peel is winnahz when you’re sick.
Seed City, Pearlridge Center, (808) 488-9755
Kay’s Crackseed, Manoa Marketplace, (808) 988-4338
I love crack seed stores, but ironically, I grew up hating crack seed.
C-Mui Center, 1111 Bethel St., (808) 536-4712
Over the years, my need for crack seed has diminished. So did the number of shops. When Crack Seed Center closed at Ala Moana and Doe Fang changed to a shave-ice-only shop, that stung—and not only on a nostalgic level. I had started creating my own memories with my own daughter, taking her to my favorite crack seed haunts, even bribing her with a treat from Crack Seed Center during a long day of shopping. (The li-hing apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) And, yes, I can take her to Wholesale Unlimited and Longs for sealed packages of li-hing mango and peach strips, but not having uncle or auntie scoop up some sweet li hing mui from a glass jar—even though you know the shelf life is way expired—de-flavors the experience.
Crack Seed Store, 1156 Koko Head Ave., (808) 737-1022
Seeds ‘n Things, Windward Mall, (808) 235-5050
Right when I walk into a crack seed store, it hits me—the sweet-sour-salty aroma of li hing mui. My mouth waters, and instantly, I feel like a kid in a candy shop again.