“Yum, yum. Yick Lung.
Yum, yum. Yick Lung.
I love the flavor of Yick Lung!”
Reportedly, Yee Sheong and Kam Tai Leong arrived in the Islands in 1898 and founded Yickco in 1900 and operated under the tradename of Yick Lung.
Yick Lung, which means ‘profitable enterprise’ in Cantonese, was primarily a candy company and was subsequently operated by a couple generations of the family.
Yee brought dried preserved plums from mainland China while traveling to the islands, which became the local snack favorite of generations to follow. (Star Pacific Trading)
A featured item was ‘Li Hing Mui – ‘Li Hing’ means ‘traveling’ while Mui’ means ‘plum;’ hence the name Li Hing Mui describes the tasty treat from the Orient. (Star Pacific Trading)
Daughter, Gertrude Yee, is attributed with coming up with the name Li Hing Mui for the sun-dried, salty-sweet plum. (Shimabukuro)
The Yee siblings (11 children of the company founders) took over the company when their father died in 1944. Shortly thereafter, Peter and Frederick Yee bought out the other family members in 1950 and added crack seed to the lineup of Yick Lung snacks. (Yonan)
In addition to Hawai‘i, the brothers sought expansion on the continent. However, two trucks were wrecked by sledgehammers in San Francisco’s Chinatown – reportedly, not the work of jealous gangsters looking for a payoff, rather the result of widespread car wreckage by juvenile delinquents.
“The wrecking of the trucks indicated one type of the obstacles the Yick Lung Co., has encountered in its program of expansion to the West Coast . Dealing mainly in cracked seed and other types of candied seed derived from the Orient, Yick Lung has not encountered serious competition, ‘Yet.’”
“Though he (owner Fred Yee) declined to mention how wide operations on the West Coast are, he admitted New York might be a target for further expansion in the future. Yick Lung has not moved into Chicago, he said.” (Honolulu Record, March 13, 1958) It’s not clear how expansive the operation was outside Hawai‘i.
Back in the Islands, the company soared in the sixties and seventies through promotions with Checkers and Pogo, the Sunday Manoa (the Cracked Seed album) and Captain Honolulu, just to name a few.
Peter and Fred took the company to its legendary heights, becoming a household name in all the islands. During that time, Peter was known as Mr Cracked Seed. (Reuel)
The Yees discovered that people in Hawaii would buy a whole variety of sweet and sour tastes and began making different ‘sauces’ to vary the flavor. They added new items to the list, such as mango and cherry seeds.
One brother ran a store on Lusitana Streets on the slopes of Punchbowl Volcano just north of downtown Honolulu, the other peddled the seed from a horsedrawn carriage, and later trucks. (Laudan)
Although the brothers weren’t the first to bring in preserved fruit, or ‘see mui,’ from China, they are credited with being the first to mass market it.
In one of the preserved plum varieties the pit of the preserved fruit was cracked to expose the kernel inside. From that grew the generic term of crack seed to describe the whole range of preserved fruit treats. (Yonan)
Unfortunately, parent company Yickco Inc filed for bankruptcy in 1996 as it struggled to pay off tax debts and faced increasing competition from other snack distributors. (Yonan) Yickco Inc, which manufactured Yick Lung products, was dissolved in 1998.