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Li hing mui

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Li hing mui

Li hing mui (Chinese: 旅行梅; Jyutping: leoi5 hang4 mui4), known as huamei (simplified Chinese: 话梅; traditional Chinese: 話梅; pinyin: Huà méi) in Mainland China, is salty dried Chinese plum (Prunus mume). It has a strong, distinctive flavor and is often said to be an acquired taste, as it has a combination of sweet, sour, and salty taste.[1] Originally from Guangdong Province, the name "li hing mui" means "traveling plum". "Li hing" is "traveling" and "mui" is "plum" in Cantonese.[2] Li hung mui is called hoshiume (Japanese: 干し梅, dried plum) in Japan, where the salty and sour umeboshi is also popular. Li hing mui, along with li hing powder, is extremely popular as a snack in Hawaii.[3]


Li hing mui powder from Taiwan.

Li hing mui powder is made of ground plum skin that has previously been pickled in a combination of licorice, red food coloring, salt, sugar, and occasionally aspartame and or saccharine. It can be used as a flavoring, usually sprinkled on candy and other fruits, notably pineapples, mangoes, guavas and apples. Li hing mui powder can be found in Hawaii, where local children like to put it on shave ice, sour candy, rock candy, popcorn, fruit, and arare.[4]

Alcoholic beverages[edit]

Recently, people have also been putting li hing powder into their alcoholic drinks—mainly tequila and cocktails.[5][6] Many bars in Hawaii replace salt with this powder, since this powder is not only salty, but sweet and sour as well. Other people also feel that it gives a tart and tangy twist. Many bars in Hawaii also rim their glasses with li hing powder in addition to putting it in the drink.

Besides li hing powder, the whole li hing mui (red plum seed) is added directly to a bottle of tequila, filling the bottle at least half way with the plum seeds. After a few weeks, the li hing plums will impart its reddish color and flavor to the tequila, fully transferring their flavor to the drink.

Note that li hing powder is used on different plum varieties, and it comes in different colors. The "red" powder is popular on fruits and assorted red plum varieties. A "white" powder version is more commonly used on dried/dehydrated plums.

In China, huamei are often found in bottles of rice wine, like olives in a martini.

Variations in other countries[edit]

East Asia[edit]

Hoshiume, sweet and sour dried Japanese plum
Dried Japanese plums, comfortably sour (left) and sweet (right)

Li hung mui is also found in Korea and Japan.

Li hung mui was introduced to Japan from China through Okinawa, and was simply called Hoshiume (干し梅, dried plum). Its import, however, was stopped soon, as cyclamate was found being used. As the dried plum using candyleaf was developed in 1981 by such confectionaries as Uema Confectionary in Okinawa,[7] it has become popular among the Japanese. It is now found in the local supermarkets in Japan.

Southeast Asia[edit]

Li hing mui were introduced to the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period by Chinese Filipino immigrants. They are known in Filipino as kiamoy (spelled ciamoy in Philippine Spanish). The name is derived from Philippine Hokkien Chinese: 鹹梅; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: kiâm-muî; lit. 'salted plum'. The li hing mui powder mixture (anise, licorice, salt, sugar, and powdered plum seeds) was also introduced and is sold separately as kiam-muy-hoon (or simply "kiamoy powder"). The powder is used as an ingredient in cooking, as coating for the dish kiamoy chicken, or as dips for fruits like pomelo and unripe or pickled mango. A locally-developed variant of kiamoy is known as champóy which uses the native berry Myrica rubra (also locally known as champóy).[8][9]


Li hing mui was introduced to the Polynesian islands of Hawaii, Tahiti and Samoa in the late 19th century by Chinese labourers working in the plantations.[10] It is typically eaten in powdered form, sprinkled over fruits such as mango or ambarella and other desserts. It is known locally as crack seed in Hawaii, Simoi in the Samoan islands and bonbon chinois in French Polynesia.

Li hing mui achieved popularity in Hawaii by Yee Sheong, who in early 1900 began importing li hing mui and various other preserved fruits, from China to Hawaii. Yee thus started the li hing mui craze, which flourished with the company he founded, Yick Lung. Li hing mui can be found in Hawaiian and Asian markets.[11]

In the 70s, a popular gift for Hawaiian kids were the Yick Lung crack seed leis.

North America[edit]

Li hing mui (as ciamoy) were introduced to Mexico by Filipino migrants via the Manila Galleons (1565 to 1815). These developed into the Mexican treat saladitos and the chamoy sauce derived from it.[9][12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hamm, Catharine (15 October 2017). "The Hawaiian snack li hing mui is everywhere, even margaritas and malasadas". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  2. ^ "What does li hing mui mean?". www.definitions.net.
  3. ^ Wong, Kathleen (4 May 2022). "What's 'crack seed,' one of Hawai'i's favorite snacks?". National Geographic. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  4. ^ "The History Of Li Hing Mui". Archived from the original on January 4, 2018. Retrieved September 11, 2022.
  5. ^ Lucariello, Chandra (27 September 2017). "Crack-seed cocktails conjure childhood memories". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  6. ^ Dingeman, Robbie (24 July 2019). "Drinking Local: Finding a Hawai'i Twist for National Tequila Day". Honolulu Magazine. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  7. ^ List of products at Uema Confectionary (上間菓子店) in Japanese
  8. ^ Polistico, Edgie (2017). Philippine Food, Cooking, & Dining Dictionary. Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9786214200870.
  9. ^ a b "Kiamoy: What Exactly Is Kiamoy? (A Filipino Street Food)". Philippine News. March 28, 2020. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  10. ^ "Li Hing Mui, A Hawaii Obsession". 24 July 2019.
  11. ^ Temple, James. "Li Hing Mui... "The Traveling Plum"".
  12. ^ Tellez, Lesley (May 29, 2019). "The Spicy, Sour, Ruby-Red Appeal of Chamoy". Taste. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  13. ^ "Chamoy". Masa Americana. June 17, 2021. Retrieved November 1, 2021.