If you’ve perused the snack aisles at any Hawaii supermarket, you’ve probably seen “local” snacks alongside the usual Cheetos, Fritos, and Chips Ahoy. What’s in all this stuff? What the heck is “li hing mui,” anyway? Read on, and maybe you’ll be inspired to try some of Hawaii’s favorite treats!
Li Hing Mui
This is one of the most ubiquitous Hawaii goodies to be found in the local snack section. In fact, there are entire stores dedicated to li hing mui and its relatives and permutations. What is it? The most basic, classic version of li hing mui is a dried plum, seed and all, covered in the un mistakable “li hing” powder—a sweet, salty, and sour mixture that you just have to taste to understand. People of all ages love to snack on li hing mui, and you can find the reddish powder on more than just the dried plums! You might see it on dried or pickled mango, dried lemon peel, and, my personal favorite, on sour gummy watermelon candy. Yep, it’s a taste sensation! Also, look for li hing powder flavoring and garnishing cocktails at many of Hawaii’s watering holes.
You might see it labeled as arare, or Japanese rice crackers, but Hawaii has taken this Asian classic and made it our own! These crunchy, umami-rich crackers are sold everywhere, from gas stations to movie theaters. You haven’t lived until you’ve had popcorn mixed with butter, furikake (a seaweed and sesame seed mixture), and mochi crunch! You’ll find these crackers big, tiny, wrapped in nori, spicy, sweet, and even dusted with li hing powder! Whatever your tastes, you’ll be sure to find a version of this local favorite that you’ll want to bring back home!
Yep, you read that right—shrimp chips! What are they? Well, these puffy, tapioca-flour-based crisps are dusted with powdered dried shrimp, along with other seasonings, and they’re totally addicting! Even if flavoring a snack with dried shrimp doesn’t sound too appealing, at least give it a try—you might be surprised. What starts as a weird, “I-dare-you-to-try-that” snack might become your new favorite!
You’ll find plenty more interesting, unconventional, and dare we say, “bizarre,” snacks around the islands. Branch out, taste everything, and find yet another reason to return to Hawaii—a craving for your new favorite treat!