At the very end of a visit to Oahu, I learned about something called “crack seed.” It’s slang for local snacks – mostly dried fruits, not so much actual seeds – that you can still find in a few remaining shops in the islands.
There’s an element of nostalgia here for Hawaiian residents; many grew up going to the crack seed shop just like mainlanders went to the candy store to fish around in glass jars or gaze at colorful counter displays for their favorite sweets. As is typical of the islands, though, these snacks are an intriguing Asian/tropical taste mix of sweet and salty fruits and flavors.
Most references say that similar snacks were brought to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants who were working the plantations – the li hing mui powder is now also added to Western candies like gummi bears.
There was only time for me to make one rather hurried visit to Rainbow Crack Seed (sometimes spelled crackseed) located in a strip mall in the town of Kaneohe, on the lush Windward side of Oahu fairly close to where we stayed in Kailua. I should have gotten a local to go with me or give recommendations, because there was bag after bag of stuff that was a complete mystery. I knew what to do with the shave ice and sweet boba teas that were offered at the front of the store, but stared cluelessly at the “tourist plums” and “hurricane popcorn” and “cuttlefish legs.”
And I had NO idea what to do with the “Red Legs” below (which I learned later are another variation on cuttlefish.)
To make up for not exploring and sampling nearly enough, I asked some kamaʻāina friends, all of them long-time Hawaii residents, for their tips.
From Russ Sumida / @ParkRat on Twitter:
“Crack Seed Store in Kaimuki hands down. Snack? Arare. (Rice crackers.)”
From Melissa Chang / @Melissa808 on Twitter, who worked at a now-closed Ala Moana Mall crack seed shop throughout high school, so she knows her seed snacks:
“I go to Seed City at Pearlridge [shopping center] now – [favorites] are rock salt plum, honey ginger. When I’m sick I like to put salty lime in some tea.”
From Neenz Faleafine / @NEENZ on Twitter, who likes to make her own:
“My favorite snack is mango soaked in shoyu, vinegar and sugar. Homemade recipe.”
From Bruce Fisher / @AlohaBruce on Twitter:
“[In] Kaimuki, Crack Seed Store is the name!!”
From Nathan Kam / @NathanKam on Twitter:
“Favorite snack type? Lemon peel/strips, rock salt plum, dried clams, dried scallops…they’re all good. Wholesale Unlimited is good for this kind of stuff, but Crack Seed City at Pearlridge [is] a fave.”
Mahalo to my island friends for sharing your local insights – did we miss any good ones, or suggestions for crack seed stores other than those on Oahu?
Please share down in the comments ….
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