I went to my in-law’s last week and found this enormous bowl of kumquats sitting next to the door. If you’ve never eaten a kumquat before, you’d probably peel the outside and discover that the inside tastes terrible, and you may assume you got a bad kumquat. Surprise! You didn’t get a bad kumquat. Instead of peeling the outside, you’re supposed to eat the skin and discard the flesh.
I did as I was told and tentatively ate the rind of the kumquat as my mother-in-law waited eagerly for me to squeal, “Oh my goodness, these are delicious!” Instead, I just gave her a blank stare. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I still hated kumquats, which taste like orange rinds. So I gave one to my daughter and like an angel, she squealed, “I love kumquats!” for her popo.
My mother-in-law can eat them until she’s sick in the stomach, literally. It seems like Chinese people like to take their kumquats straight up. Being that I’m only quasi-Chinese (by marriage), I like my kumquats the way I like my coffee, coffee candy I should say.
The next time I went to the in-laws, the bowl of kumquats was gone and in its place was this tray of li hing kumquats! It’s like Low Dao read my mind and looked at the bowl of kumquats and thought, “I can make better.” And he did!
Li Hing Mui Kumquats Recipe
- 1 lb. whole fresh kumquats
- 1 c. sugar
- Li Hing powder
Bring about 1 – 1/2 quarts of water to a boil – enough to cover the kumquats. Add kumquats and boil on high for about 3-4 minutes, drain and cool. Do not run under cold water. Next you want to smash the kumquats with the flat side of a knife (like you would smash garlic before you peel it). This step is quite messy (and fun). You probably want to do it outdoors and wear an apron. The purpose of smashing the kumquats is to get all the seeds out and some of the tartness from the inside. Lay the kumquats out on a pan in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Let them stand for 4 to 5 hours.
Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Discard all the water from the kumquats and place them in the oven. Turn the kumquats with a spatula every ten minutes until they are sticky like wet prunes (not completely dry). This step is really up to you, it can be anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon how wet or dry you like your li hing mui. The real Chinese way to do this is to put the kumquats in the sun for two days (with a mosquito net over to keep the bugs out) and bring them in during the night.
Once the kumquats have reached their desired stickiness, sprinkle sugar and li hing powder over the kumquats and mix. The amount of li hing powder also varies based on your liking. Try adding a little at a time and tasting it until it’s just the way you like it.
Store in an air tight container.