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“Every time I come here,” the lady said in local pidgin, “it’s
like I goin’ back to old-time Hawaii.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by customers a thousand times a day in
the old store. But, if a visit to this Oahu institution known
simply as the Crack Seed Store is a dose of nostalgia for locals,
for visitors it’s a charming glimpse of the real Hawaii.
Crack seed fruit preserved in a concoction of sugar, salt,
licorice, star anise and li hing, a tart red powder made from the
pits of plums was brought to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants more than
100 years ago. Ancient Chinese warriors are said to have carried
crack seed under the saddle of their horses. But despite its
immigrant past, the crack seed store is thoroughly Hawaiian.
When your clients are ready to order, Mr. Young shuffles out
from behind his battered counter and scoops the sticky morsels into
little plastic bags. The sheer number of options can be daunting,
and even old hands often walk out with four or five varieties.
A more modern version of the crack seed store can be found among
the luxury outlets at Honolulu’s Ala Moana Shopping Center. The
Crack Seed Center is a bright, clean shop with an enormous
selection of traditional fruits, crackers and dried seafood. Its
central location makes it tremendously popular with locals, and a
squadron of young women in red smocks are quick to offer their
Crack Seed Store