I’d forgotten about hurricane popcorn, a ridiculously addictive Asian-fusion snack from Hawaii, until I saw the words “nori popcorn” online recently. And then it all came back – hot buttery popcorn, toasted sesame seeds, crisp bits of roasted seaweed and a bit of sugar – and I had to make it immediately.
In college, I had no problem bypassing the usual vices, but when my friend Alli from Hawaii pulled out the neon-rainbow hurricane popcorn packet from her suitcase, and we popped the corn in my unauthorized dorm room microwave, poured in the alarmingly yellow fake-butter packet, shook it all up with the salty, sweet, crunchy topping, I was hooked.
Made by Oahu-based Hawaii Popcorn Company, hurricane popcorn was first sold from a pushcart in Kaneohe. Word spread, and eventually the company made a packaged product for people to make at home. Some movie theaters in Hawaii now offer hurricane in addition to regular popcorn, and in others people sneak in flavor packets to make their own.
Like another dorm room favorite, instant ramen, packaged hurricane popcorn is heavy on MSG. If I’d known then how easy it is to make a more wholesome version of hurricane popcorn – all I needed was a Japanese rice seasoning called furikake (pronounced foo-ree-CAH-kay) – I could have spared myself months of pining for a hurricane fix between Alli’s all-too-seldom trips home from New York to Honolulu.
It’s not hard these days to find good quality furikake in any Asian market. Simple nori furikake, with sesame seeds, roasted seaweed (aka nori), salt and sugar, is the one most similar to the hurricane popcorn seasoning. You can also make homemade furikake, which is economical if you use it in quantity.
I should warn you that once you have it, you may start putting furikake on everything. Take something plain – rice and vegetables, steamed fish, even a fried egg – and a shake of furikake makes it a party.
You can buy furikake on Amazon (currently $6.59 as an add-on item), but it’s normally around $2 at the store. In areas with high Asian populations you may even find it at your local supermarket. But otherwise a specialty Asian grocer should have it. The label may have a lot of Japanese on it, but look on the back to find ingredients listed in English. If you find the JFC brand, which I like because it has no MSG, the nori version has a blue label.
I also bought a version with dried bonito (tuna) flakes, a popular ingredient in Japan whose deeply savory appeal anchovy lovers will understand.
I don’t recommend commercial microwave popcorn for health reasons, but also because it’s usually pre-flavored, and you won’t want double up on fat and salt (adding butter or oil is important so the furikake sticks to the popcorn). You can easily make your own microwave popcorn in a brown paper bag. It’s cheaper too.
I love my air popper – easy and fast, no clean up. And for anyone making popcorn on the stovetop, Elise at Simply Recipes has a smart technique.
Here it goes.
And toppings: melted butter, furikake and rice crackers if you like. The Japanese call the bite-sized rice crakers arare; in Hawaii slang they are known as mochi crunch. I had these seaweed-wrapped ones, but the smaller ones with no seaweed would blend in better with the popcorn.
I forgot to add a drop of soy sauce in with the butter, but I added it with a bit of olive oil since my butter didn’t seem quite enough.
The furikake with bonito blended in more with the popcorn.
And the nori furikake was really the taste I remembered. I like rice crackers, but I prefer my hurricane popcorn straight up.
So ono (Hawaiian for delicious). I used this small bowl for pictures.
But really I ate half this large bowl as my breakfast/lunch. And then I got busted by my mom for not eating a balanced meal. Good thing she didn’t see me in college.
Mahalo to my awesome friend Alli. Dat hurricane popcorn brok da mout, brah.
This Asian fusion popcorn from Hawaii originated in a popcorn cart and is now sold in microwave packs all over the islands. Making it at home only takes a shake of furikake, a Japanese rice seasoning common in Asian markets. More economical and avoids the MSG, artificial butter flavoring and other chemicals found in the pre-packaged version.
- Fresh popcorn
- Melted butter (can mix with good olive oil), 1 tablespoon per quart of popcorn
- Touch of soy sauce (about 1/8 teaspoon for each tablespoon butter)
- Nori furikake (Japanese rice seasoning consisting of salt, sugar, sesame seeds and bits of roasted seaweed), about 1 tablespoon per quart of popcorn
- Japanese rice crackers (aka arare or, in Hawaii, mochi crunch)
- Mix a touch soy sauce with melted butter. Gradually drizzle butter mixture over popcorn, distributing it as evenly as you can. Use a large spoon to mix well or shake popcorn vigorously in a bag.
- Sprinkle furikake over popcorn, stirring/shaking well to distribute. Mix in rice crackers if you like. Top with an additional sprinkle of furikake.
- You can buy furikake on Amazon, but it’s cheaper (around $2) at the store. The label may have a lot of Japanese on it, but look on the back to find ingredients listed in English. If you find the JFC brand, which I like because it has no MSG, the nori version has a blue label.
- I use 1/2 cup popcorn in my air popper to make about 16 cups (4 quarts) popped corn. For this amount I use 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce and 1/4 cup furikake.
- If you are making stovetop popcorn (Simply Recipes has a smart technique), you might need less butter since some oil is used during cooking.
- I don’t recommend commercial microwave popcorn for health reasons, and because it’s usually pre-flavored (you won’t want double up on fat and salt). But you can easily make your own microwave popcorn in a brown paper bag – it’s cheaper too.
Here’s the link to a printable version.
CG – way to go with the popcorn glamour shots! I am mentally sifting through my china cabinet attempting to find the biggest bowl I have to hold the copious amount of popcorn I am going to make! Then I can honestly tell my nutrition oriented Chinese mother I only had a “bowl” of popcorn 😉 Thanks for posting!
thanks, lingling! good luck with the self-control… =)
I can’t begin to tell you how much I am now craving this popcorn. As if popcorn isn’t addictive enough…you just took to a whole new level with these flavors.
aaah, dara, i’m a fan of yours! so happy to have you here.
Nice post. And thanks for the recipe, too. When I was in Oahu a few weeks ago, I noticed hurricane as a popcorn option at the Ward 16 in Honolulu, not to mention fresh, cut-up fruit! I opted for the regular popcorn, but now I wonder if I should’ve gone with hurricane. I don’t care for the microwave version, but then again I don’t like any microwave popcorn—all sorts of mysterious, likely unhealthy ingredients. Kona Chips sells furikake potato chips (which I had on a Hawaiian Airlines flight), but they were hard to find in Honolulu.
hi zoomeboshi – fresh fruit at the movies, how incredible! love those hawaiians. i’ll have to look for furikake potato chips – yum. my friend just made me some furikake chex mix, and i could not stop eating it. thanks for sharing!
These are sooooo addictive….. Thank you for the recipe!
hi misajoejoe – i agree! hard not to eat it all myself, so i try to eat it with friends. =)
This was the best recipe i have found. Making some today for the movies! yum
hi giovanna – so happy you love it! perfect for the movies. =)
I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!! My husband is Hawaiian born and bred. He moved to Florida to be with me, but he really misses some of his Island treats. Thank you so much for posting this gem! He’s a happy man! (And that makes me a happy woman!)
hi suzie – yipee…so happy your husband is happy! a taste of home is everything when you’re away. =)
Have you ever tried popping popcorn in sesame oil? I know you said you are using a air pop…but just curious??
hi DT – sesame oil has a low smoke point, so it’s much better for flavoring than cooking. my current fave is avocado oil for popcorn – high smoke point and great clean taste.
Yes, I make popcorn on a regular and I’ve been using avacado oil. I really like olive oil too but low smoke point too. I’m going to try out the seasoning you use. Thanks…😉
Can this be stored overnight or should I be made just before eating?
hi danielle – you can make it ahead. it won’t be quite as crisp the next day but it will still be good. just cool the popcoen completely before storing it in an airtight container. hope you enjoy it!