OnoPops' Natural Li Hing Mui Powder

Photo: Martha Cheng

I’m not sure how many people out there really care that most li hing mui powder contains artificial food coloring and aspartame. Not being able to add li hing powder to my grocery cart at Whole Foods isn’t on my list of Things I Fret About (Whole Foods prohibits artificial colorings and sweeteners in the products they carry). But I love that OnoPops is crazy and passionate enough to have recreated our favorite crackseed powder by blending white licorice and pharmaceutical-grade pure ume for their own all-natural mix. It’s like having the gall of trying to reproduce Coca Cola.

And so, like a Coca Cola copy, OnoPops’ li hing powder doesn’t taste exactly the same as "the real thing", but I love the OnoPops product for its differences. It’s salty-sweet with the strong pucker of ume, unclouded by the lingering tongue-ache of aspartame.

But what about the color? White li hing powder? Did no one learn their lesson from Crystal Pepsi? It turns out, OnoPops does sell a pink li hing powder at the farmers’ markets. It’s made with carmine, a natural red dye, but for Whole Foods, OnoPops leaves the dye out because carmine’s fine print is that it’s made from crushed beetles, making the powder vegan-unfriendly.

Beetles or no, I love this stuff.

OnoPops’ Li hing powder available at Whole Foods Kahala and Blaisdell Farmer’s Market, Wednesdays 4-7pm