ALOHA FROM JENNIE: Linda's daughter lives on the U.S. mainland now, but one of her favorite gift box items from Hawaii is li hing powder. This unique island flavoring originated in China and is made from grounded dried plum skin, licorice, salt, sugar (or aspartame, so check the ingredients label), and food coloring.
The taste is hard to describe to those who haven't ever tried this 'seasoning', but it is sweet, salty and sour all at the same time. Bags of dried li hing coated seeds, fruits, crackers, and candy such gummy bears, worms, and lollipops are typically shipped as gifts.
A common local method of enjoying li hing powder is to lightly coat fresh fruit slices such as pineapple, apple, papaya, pear, cantaloupe and mango. Acidic fruits are best, and some prefer that the slices are frozen, so that you get a fruity Popsicle effect. Others go straight for li hing infused frozen desserts, such as shaved ice or vanilla ice cream.
Savory dishes using li hing are also popular. Fine dining chef Alan Wong serves a li hing vinaigrette dressing with his tomato and cucumber salad, and many islanders have created their own li hing barbecue sauces and marinades for grilling shrimp, pork and chicken.
Bars and nightclubs have jumped on the bandwagon with tropical tequila drinks, such as li hing powder rimmed margaritas. So pucker up and cheers to this versatile flavoring!