Li hing mui
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Li hing mui (Chinese: 旅行梅; Jyutping: leoi5 hang4 mui4) in Cantonese is salty dried plum. In most parts of China it is called Huà méi (话梅). 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. It has also been described as tart, and even tangy. Originally from Guangdong Province, the name "li hing mui" means "traveling plum". "Li hing" is "traveling" and "mui" is "plum" in Cantonese.
Li hing (red powder) is red powder made of ground-up plum skin that has previously been pickled in a combination of licorice, sometimes, but not always aspartame, food coloring, salt, and sugar. Li hing powder is sold separately and can be used as a flavoring usually sprinkled on candy and other fruits notably pineapples, mangos, and apples. In the United States Li hing mui powder can be found in Hawaii, where local children like to put li hing powder on sour gummy bears, sour gummy worms, sour watermelon candy, sour patch kids, shave ice, sour apple candy, rock candy, popcorn, fruit, and arare (also known as kakimochi and mochi crunch).
Recently, people have also been putting li hing powder into their alcoholic drinks—mainly tequila and cocktails. 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 sometimes 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. And when you try eat one of the plum seeds after you take them out, you'll find that it flavor has gone entirely into the tequila.
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 cups of rice wine, like olives in a martini.
In the United States
It was made popular in Hawaii by Yee Sheong, who in early 1900 began importing li hing mui and various other preserved fruits, such as crack seed snacks, 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.
In the 70's, a popular gift for Hawaiian kids were the Yick Lung crack seed leis.
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