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Wherefore salted plums?

Holy crap. I bought a bag (dried). Ate one. I love salt. I lick salt. This was spittingly AWFUL. Not to mention hard. Are you supposed to rinse or macerate 'em first?

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  1. Nah, you just suck on them dry. :)

    One thing I love is to get some of the dried salted plums that come in pieces without the pit, slice up a tomato, and stab the pieces into the tomato.

    Salted plum powder is used as a common flavoring for fruit in Taiwan.

    Pop a few salted plums into a glass with Sprite or 7-up and you can make the salted plum drink you find in most Vietnamese restaurants.

    1 Reply
    1. re: huaqiao

      I love salted plums. You just pop one into your mouth and suck on it, and nibble the fruit off the pit a little at a time. You can also add a couple to a glass of limeade or lemonade, just like they serve in Malaysia -- very refreshing!

    2. Ah, xi muoi. You just eat them straight like a candy by nibbling and then spit out the pit. Once as a kid I ate a whole bag and vomited afterwards, though. Maybe the ones you got are old. They should be a little bit soft and fleshy.

      4 Replies
      1. re: luckyfatima

        I think these must be old. But so they're supposed to be covered with all that brownish crust then?

        1. re: tatamagouche

          They are supposed to be like that...and I couldn't stomach it either. I did a flickr search on "salted plum". Some are soft, some are hard.

        2. re: luckyfatima

          There are lots of different kinds. The ones I like are the red ones which are completely dry and hard. Then you get ones that are varying degrees of fleshy. Some of them are actually wet, but still can be called salted plums.

          In Taiwan, one of the things you see a lot is food carts selling cherry tomatoes stuffed with a piece of black salted plum which is of the wetter, sweeter variety.

          One of my favorite candies as a kid is a dry salted plum encased in maltose. You can actually buy a little tub of maltose and make that yourself or buy them pre-wrapped. I've seen Japanese versions of this candy as well.

          Salt with fruit, drinks, or desserts is something that a lot of non-Asians have a hard time getting used to.

          1. re: huaqiao

            But I don't have a problem. I love salted fruit/drinks/desserts. I'll salt anything. That's why I was so surprised I didn't like these.

            Is it not just salt but MSG?

        3. I use to have these all the time as a kid. As the other poster have already said, you just suck them and then gnaw off the flesh. My mouth is puckering just thinking bout them. They maybe an acquired taste.

          2 Replies
          1. re: KTinNYC

            Must be. They're on my list of things that I've tried once, but will never cross my lips again before I die. I just don't get them, either as a dessert or as a snack.

            1. re: Gin n Tonic

              They certainly were never served as a dessert and they don't make much of a snack! They were just something that were lying around and you would pop in your mouth like those weird hard candies. The combination of salty, sweet and sour is quite unique.

          2. Pickled and salted = umeboshi (literally "dried plums") in Japan. They are moist, being kept in pickle jar.

            Rice balls (onigiri) wrapped in a sheet of nori, with a prized umeboshi in the center, are the go-to lunch for traveling, hiking etc.


            3 Replies
            1. re: FoodFuser

              Nope, as I said, these weren't moist (or in a jar). These were rock-hard dried in a bag.

              1. re: FoodFuser

                Dried salted plums and umeboshi are not the same.

                Both have to be part of your diet when young. I still love ume but can no longer eat salted dried plums.

                1. re: FoodFuser

                  Well, salt me in my undies and hang me out to dry. :)

                  With grace, wit, and understanding, we can contemplate the full continuum of hydration of the salted plum.

                  Yep they're different. Yep they're similar. Two different points along the hoshi-boshi spectrum.


                2. It also depends on which variety you get. There are the ones with *just* salt but I like the ones that are sweet too. Yeah, the red ones are reliably sweet/salty, though my favorite are the gray ones. I find the just salty ones too salty.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PegS

                    Yeah, see, I love pickled plums. I thought I'd love these too. Sigh.

                  2. For the really salty dry ones, you must savor s-l-o-w-l-y.

                    Nibble and lick, don't pop them into your mouth like they're jelly beans ...

                    1. I agree with other posters -it's an acquired taste, usually acquired in childhood. I love the things, but rarely eat them now. In Hawaii, li hing powder has been "hot" for years now - it's added to all kinds of things, including cocktails! YUM. They are also really good with hot tea when you have a sore throat.

                      If you don't like the dried ones, see if you can find the black wet ones. They are a lot sweeter and easier to eat. In Hawaii they're called "rock salt plums."

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: akq

                        Cool. I'll try those. Again, I love umeboshi, and I love things saltier than most people I know, so I figured I'd like these. But...yeah. Whew.

                        Just out of curiosity, what would happen if you did rinse/macerate them in something, say plum vinegar? Or wine or vodka? Not viable? Viable but weird and pointless?

                        1. re: tatamagouche

                          OK. I'm currently soaking them in water. I don't think it's working, but wish me luck. If anyone has any advice on what you'd do next, besides just give up, admit they're not my thing, & throw them away, I'm open.

                          (I did a blogpost on it here because, being from Oklahoma, I can't help but be amused by their resemblance to the official state rock, the rose rock.)


                          But really, there's got to be some worthy experiment?

                          1. re: tatamagouche

                            Kind of like soaking french frys in water if they're too salty.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Well, I was thinking baccala. :)

                              PS That's a joke, right? Nobody soaks their fries? I mean I'm sure nobody does this either, but.

                              1. re: tatamagouche

                                Twas a joke. But I can't picture soaking salted plums. They're for salt addicts; and I think you have have to have gotten started on them elarly in life. I had my last one sometime in the 60s - my mother had a stroke and we all went low salt after that.

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  But, but, but, I am a salt addict. Really I am, I keep saying so! I lick flavored salt off my palm. I drink pickle juice and eat all pickles. I love all the tinned fishies, I'll salt anything, including sweets. Etc. etc. Oh please believe me!

                                  Again, I agree I might like the softer ones some have recommended. Just couldn't do these.

                                  But I think you're right; I think they're just going to fall apart. Still, will report back.

                                  1. re: tatamagouche

                                    I don't get it. Why *force* yourself to like them? You tried them. You don't like them. Move on. There are lots of other things to eat.

                                    1. re: Gin n Tonic

                                      I'm not forcing myself to like them; I'm just playing around with something I'd otherwise just throw away. Why not, I say?

                                      1. re: tatamagouche

                                        Salted plum soda/drink? Not unlike making the salted lime/lemon version, soak the plums in water, add a touch of sugar (to taste), add more water to taste, add ice & mineral water if desired. You should end up with a sweet-ish, salty drink, which sounds sooooo much worse than it taste.

                                        My mouth is watering at the thought of the salted, dried plums you've described (I used to consume them like crazy). It's like I'm one of Pavlov's dogs or something ... :(

                                    2. re: tatamagouche

                                      I believe I saw a recipe for Pickled Mango where the red colored dried plums (Li Hing Mui) were used in the pickling juice. So conceivably, you could soak those salted plums and use them as a spice.
                                      The Teochew have a recipe for steamed fish which calls for salted plum that hasn't been dehydrated. They will add ginger, shitake slices, tomato slices, sour mustard or rice vinegar, and chicken broth to fish before steaming. It is a favorite in my family and my 2 and 5 year old love the salty/sour/savory broth drizzled over rice.

                              2. re: tatamagouche

                                I don't know what would happen - probably nothing bad and you'd get the sweet, salty, licorice flavor in whatever it is you soak them in. YUM. Maybe try soaking them in something warm like tea?

                                I had another thought - there are candies that are the dry salt plums encased in candy sugar. I've given those out to friends who could stand them a little better with all the sugar.

                                At Alan Wongs in Hawaii (my fav HI resto) he makes a really nice li hing mui vinaigrette that goes over a fresh tomato salad. You might try grinding the plum meat up and playing with it like that (in effect, making your own "li hing mui powder")? But then, I like the taste of the plums, so if you don't that might still be a no go.

                                Li Hing Mui Vinaigrette

                                1 whole egg
                                2 tablespoons Ume paste (Kinjirushi Neri Ume Shiso brand)*
                                2 tablespoons Li Hing Mui Powder**
                                1/4 cup Mitsukan rice vinegar
                                1 cup salad oil
                                1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

                                1. Place all the ingredients except the oil and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.

                                2. With hand-held immersion blender on medium speed, slowly add the oil in a steady stream to create an emulsion. Continue until all oil is incorporated.

                                3. Finish with lemon juice. Chill until ready to use.


                                * Ume Paste — salty, tart-flavored paste made from the pickled Japanese plum and shiso (perilla or beefsteak leaf).

                                ** Li Hing Mui Powder — a favorite local snack, made with dried plum from the Orient that has a sweet/sour yet salty taste. Just thinking about it makes your mouth water.

                                1. re: akq

                                  OK, this sounds awesome. Again, I love the pickled plums, just apparently not so much the dried/salted ones. Wonder if I could play with this recipe to use them instead of the powder somehow.

                                  On that note, thanks for the recipe!!

                                2. re: tatamagouche

                                  Try what I mentioned before if you have any left. Get some cherry tomatoes, "bite off" a few pieces of the salted plum, and stab them through the top. Let it rehydrate a bit and then try them. Or alternately, slice up a regular tomato into wedges and stab some pieces of the salted plum into the tomato seed part until they rehydrate a bit.

                                  I would think soaking them in vodka and then making a vodka tonic would be pretty good. Not sure soaking them in water and then just drinking the water is going to do anything for you, though.

                                  1. re: huaqiao

                                    Ooh, no, I didn't mean I'd drink the water! Huaquiao, you're sick. :) I was just rinsing.

                                    Glad you like the vodka idea. That's a third option.

                            2. They're used somewhat often in Teochew cooking (in addition to a general sweet snack). Steamed pomfret with one or two salted plums and pickled mustard greens is a classic dish of the genre.

                              1. i grew up with these in Fiji. I was wondering if any of you knew where one could find them, perhaps to be shipped?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Lenox637

                                  Crack Seed Center in Hawaii has an online store. Yes, it's called Crack Seed in Hawaii...


                                2. my local bar is owned by a malaysian dude who does me the honor of dropping a salted plum into my lager (like how people toss a lime in their coronas). it is magnificent - like a sweet tart in my yeungling.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I'm wondering why nobody's talked about the Mexican salted plums, called saladitos? I think they're pretty much the same thing. They are eaten like candy around here. They come in several versions, the plain and those spiced with chili and lime. They are also dropped in Mexican beer and tequila drinks. I tried ONE once, and couldn't stand them either. Has anyone tried them? I know you can buy them online, for those looking for salted plums.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: FibroLady

                                      They are the same thing...in fact the bag I bought, though an Asian product, has the word "salditos" (not "saladitos," but I've seen both) on it too.

                                      BTW, I'm starting over—I kinda forgot about them and just left them sitting in the water all week. So I'll go get another bag to try them in drinks.

                                      Plus, one of the other things I bought was such a hit I want to go get more: whole pickled eggplants. They weren't cheap but damn were they good. I don't know if you're just supposed to eat them plain, but I did. What's the word for them in Japanese (or any other lang., for that matter, but this is a mostly Japanese market)?

                                      1. re: tatamagouche

                                        Are they the small round eggplants? I've seen a few different versions depending on countries of origin.

                                        1. re: tatamagouche

                                          nasu (eggplant) zuke (pickle).

                                          Variously pickled in salted rice bran or miso or brine pressing, etc. Nasuzuke, or other names depending on pickling medium or technique.

                                          It's a great reason to grow asian eggplants and harvest them at the baby stage, then pickle them.

                                          Spelling and translation get confusing, but here's a start:


                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                            There's a Marukai near me that has a wall of pickles. I actually read somewhere once that Japanese, even though generally much healthier than Americans, have higher incidents of stomach cancer because they eat so many pickles! My favorite is shibazuke which is the reddish purple one with sliced eggplants and ginger in plum vinegar. I think I'm going to have to swing by a Japanese market and pick some up after work today.

                                            1. re: huaqiao

                                              Thanks you all—these are (were—they're gone now!) about 3-4 inches in length, a bit under an inch wide, so yes, I'd assume they were baby Asian eggplants. Spicy as well as salty and sour and very dark blue-purple (possibly colored but I don't care, they're great!).

                                              1. re: tatamagouche

                                                BACK TO THE PLUM! My mouth is watering just reading this & thinking about those salted plums. Sam Fujisaka has it right when he says "I think you have to have gotten started on them early in life".
                                                I was born in the most northern tropical city of Australia, Darwin, in 1964. As a kid I had many Chinese friends & of course it was they who introduced me to one of the loves of my life, the salted plum. There are a lot out there & sadly, there are a lot of really shit ones, but when you find the good ones.....aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!
                                                The best brand I have ever tasted (& believe me, i've tried hundreds) was made by a company called the Hing Ah Co (or Hing Ah Company) from Hong Kong. They came in a beautifully decorated maroon coloured cardboard box with a picture of a chinese lady in a garden & man they were orgasmic. The perfect balance of salt, sugar & liquorice. I haven't been able to find these for decades now, though I believe the company still exists - i'd give my left nut for a few packets right now! This company also made another delicious delicacy called Lemon Juice Ginger - yummo! I wish I could speak Chinese so i could call them up as I still believe the company exists & I really want some of their wares. Cheers, John

                                        2. The way we used to eat them as kids... We would buy a big pickle, then take a bite, shove a few down the center then just suck on the pickles as we rode our bikes.
                                          As they sit inside the pickle, the skin begins to rehydrate, and you can chew off the salty pickle flavored meet...