Thanksgiving is over, November is coming to an end, and December (and Christmas) are close behind. Can you believe it? I took a well-needed break in order to enjoy the holidays and bake for my closest family and friends. I’ll be posting a lot of those recipes within the next two weeks, so stay tuned.
My mom’s lemon tree has been producing so much fruit within the past few months, so I knew it was about time to make a lemon dessert. I love lemon bars, so that was an easy choice, but I wanted to find a way to incorporate other local flavors from Hawaii.
One of my favorite snacks growing up was basically li hing mui anything. We would put the salty, slightly sweet, and tart powder on fruits or any type of gummy candy. My family would always keep different variations of li hing mui seed around the house, including lemon peel, which is how the idea for this combination came about.
What is Li Hing Mui?
Li hing mui is a Chinese dried salty plum that can be found in both seed form or as a powder. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but if you’re from Hawaii, you probably know that just the thought of the salty-sweet flavor can make your mouth water.
Lemon peel is a similar snack, with its origins also coming from China. Strips of lemon peel are pickled with various flavors, making for another salty, sweet, and sour treat. They’re so addicting, you really can’t just eat one. If you’ve never had lemon peel or li hing mui in general, you should definitely go try some now!
Like any local family, we had li hing powder just lying around the house. I had already planned to make lemon bars and I was curious to see if those flavors would work well together, so I decided to just add some li hing. And I’m so glad that I did! These lemon bars had an added depth of flavor, as they were sweet and slightly tart, but also lightly sour and salty. So tasty!
This recipe is pretty straightforward: it’s basically a simple shortbread crust and a basic lemon bar filling. If you’re not from Hawaii, you can just order a bag of li hing powder online. But believe me, you’ll never want to make lemon bars without it again.
Enjoy these chilled, topped with homemade whipped cream, and a sprinkle of more li hing powder. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, possibly a little longer.
Li Hing Lemon Bars
For the shortbread crust:
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 large eggs
- 1 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/2 – 2 tbsp li hing powder
Make the shortbread crust:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Combine butter, sugar, and flour.
- Press mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Make sure the crust isn't too thick. You may have some leftover crust, so use a bigger pan, make another small pan, or dump the rest. To be extra safe, you can line the pan with parchment paper as well.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.
- While still warm, lightly poke some holes with a fork. Not all the way through but just indentations.
Prepare the filling:
- Change your oven's temperature to 325°F. In a large bowl, sift the sugar and flour together.
- Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk until combined. Add your li hing powder and mix well. Taste to see if there is enough li hing. If you want a stronger flavor, add a little more (1/2 tsp at a time).
- Pour filling over warm crust. Bake the bars for 25-30 minutes, or until the middle is just set. It should not jiggle when you nudge it.
- Take bars out of the oven and let it cool at room temperature for about 2 hours. Then, place in the fridge and chill for at least another hour.
- Cut into squares and lift them out of the pan using a small spatula. Dust with powdered sugar, more li hing powder, or top with whipped cream and serve cold. Enjoy!