Crack Seed in Hawai‘i: A Beloved Hawai’i Snack
Written by Kailanianna Ablog | Cover Photo Courtesy of Austin Bennett (@ausbennett) l Model: Priscilla Wang (@thepriscillawang)
From after school visits to grab an Icee or weekend runs to restock your crack seed stash, everyone has their own favorite crack seed shop on O‘ahu! Crack seed in Hawai‘i is deeply rooted within local island culture and evokes a sense of childhood nostalgia.
But what is crack seed, you ask? For those visiting the islands and/or are not familiar with the term “crack seed” you are in for a treat!
In this “Support Local” blog, we at Valia Honolulu are excited to share what “crack seed” is, offer a brief history of crack seed and snack/gift ideas for those visiting the islands or looking for something to send to your family and friends on the mainland!
Cracking the Seed: The History of this Beloved Hawai’i Snack
Crack Seed is an umbrella term for a plethora of dehydrated or preserved fruit, candy like sour belts and watermelon gummies, and other snacks such as arare (Japanese crackers) and seafood like scallops and squid. Many of these treats can be covered in li hing mui powder, a salty and sweet red powder made from grinding together plum seeds.
Bagged crack seed makes a great gifting option! Photo Courtesy of Lin's Hawaiian Snacks.
For our founder and owner Camille Heung, crack seed stores are something nostalgic and she considers them a “Hawai‘i-based experience.”
“Two local crack seed spots are super nostalgic for me. I used to visit the crack seed store in Manoa Marketplace with my dad,” Camille said. “We used to pick up seeds, candies and Icees. I remember it being so hard to pick which I wanted since we usually got to pick just one. My go-to seed was “Wah Mui” - the brown salted dried plum and my go-to snack was Haw Flakes! We used to get Haw Flakes in Hong Kong so it was always a familiar snack for me.”
The Icee (shown above) is a Hawaii crack seed staple. Photo Courtesy of Lin's Hawaiian Snacks.
Camille also shared that crack seed in Hawai‘i contributed to positive childhood memories, especially the Kaimuki Crack Seed Store.
“Another spot close to my heart is the Crack seed shop in Kaimuki. When I didn’t have any sports after school, my friend and I would take the bus from Manoa to the corner of Koko Head and Waialae. We’d pick up Li Hing Rock Candies and walk through the roads on Wilhelmina Rise eating our rock candies and laughing until we got to her house.”
According to the Crack Seed Center, which used to own a space at Ala Moana Shopping Center and is now on 2988 Ualena Street, near the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, crack seed as we know it today started off as a means of food preservation. The concept of “crack seed” was brought to Hawai‘i during the plantation era when Chinese plantation workers would use preserved fruit to supplement their meals.
The Crack Seed Center explains this practice was done by merchants in China, who were moving west and would carry dehydrated fruit with them for food as they traveled. The salt used to dehydrate the food not only allowed it to be stored for a long time - it also offered the merchants health benefits: it replenished the salt in their body due to perspiration, retained water and “lessened muscle cramps.” Nowadays, crack seed shops carry snacks and treats that tailor to Hawai‘i’s local culture, often held in large glass containers like the one depicted here in Kakou Collective’s “Crack Seed Jar Vinyl Sticker.”
Any person local to or familiar with Hawaii's local culture will get a sense of nostalgia whenever they see these crack seed glass jars! Photo courtesy of Lin's Hawaiian Snacks.
When visiting a crack seed store, you can order an Icee in your favorite flavor, such as Coke or Cherry and browse the multitude of glass jars full of crack seed. From honey lemon ginger strips to hot cuttlefish, locals and visitors alike will have an enticing journey exploring the variety of local tastes and flavors of Hawaii’s crack seed. Plus, they make perfect gifts for loved ones on the mainland or souvenirs.
Crack Seed Spots on O‘ahu
Interested in visiting a crack seed store to stock up on all your favorite crack seed goodies? Here is a short list of some places to check out! Many of these spots offer shipping, which is a great option for those looking to send crack seed from Hawai‘i to their loved ones elsewhere or in care packages to family and friends who have moved from the islands.
That said, there are SO many more small, family-owned crack seed stores out there, so if you know of one that we don’t have on our list, please share them with us on social media!
Folks who live in or frequent Kaimuki know the Kaimuki Crack Seed Store is a neighborhood staple! Photo taken by Camille Heung.
Aforementioned by Camille, the Kaimuki Crack Seed Store has been in operation for the past 70 years. According to their “About Us” page, the Kaimuki Crack Seed Store “is known for its wide range of crack seed” and is currently run by Mrs. Fang (3rd generation), who is also the owner of Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery - another popular local spot.
When you visit the Kaimuki Crack Seed Store, head straight to the jars and take your picks! Photo taken by Camille Heung.
Bagged crack seed, like those shown above, makes for easy snacking! Photo Courtesy of Lin's Hawaiian Snacks.
Located on Kamekee St. in Kaka’ako and in Section 9D at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, Lin’s Hawaiian Snacks is another spot to visit whenever you’re checking out the Kaka’ako Farmers’ Market! According to their “About Lin’s page,” the business was founded by brothers Shin and Jim Lin who immigrated from Taiwan to Honolulu in 1982 to be near their family. They started selling vegetables and a line of swimming toys in 1985 at the Swap Meet, and have since shifted their products to crack seed. Some of the goodies you can get from Lin’s include Pickle Yellow Mango, Sweet Red Ginger, Seedless Licorice Olive, Mochi Crunch, and Okinawan Sweet Potato Crisps, a Lin’s exclusive item!
Mentioned in our “Places to Visit in Chinatown” blog, Sun Chong Grocery carries crack seed options to spice up your grocery basket! Open seven days a week starting at 8 a.m. with a closing time of 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, you can purchase a plethora of crackseed such as Li Hing Cranberry & Ginger, Li Hing Dried Guava Slices, Dried Lemon Peel, and Ika Roll (Roasted Squid).
Whenever you stop by Kay's, be sure to grab an Icee! Photo taken by Camille Heung.
Also mentioned by Camille, Kay’s Crackseed is located in the Manoa Marketplace. According to their “History- Kay’s Crackseed Hawaii” page, the crack seed store has been open since 1978 and has “maintained the same quality with the same traditional recipes.” Some of the crackseed deliciousness you can pick up from Kay’s include Lemon Gushers, Dry Lychee, Li Hing Jabong Pomelo Skin, and Ice Cake, which is only available for pick-up or local delivery.