Masala Popcorn for Election Night

by Sala @ Veggie Belly on November 11, 2008

When I was growing up in India, we went to Madras a lot. Like every big city, Madras has great food and spectacular restaurants. But the highlight for me was a street vendor selling masala popcorn. The popcorn machine and cart was (still is) outside the Nilgiris grocery store on Radhakrishnan Road. The popcorn machine constantly gurgled freshly popped corn, yellow from the turmeric and spices. While my mother shopped at Nilgiris, I would buy a dozen bags of Suri’s masala popcorn and pack it into the car. By the time we reached home I would have eaten half my popcorn stash. My tongue would be numb from all that coriander and turmeric, but I relished the salty, spicy goodness so much, I even ate the unpopped kernels. Till this day, I am obsessed about Suris popcorn. Every time I am in Madras, I will buy that wonderful, warm, freshly popped corn that smells of cumin and coriander. I couldn’t think of a better snack than this for election night. I know I’m a week late in posting this, but I was so caught up in election fever, I forgot to publish this post!

There are two ways to make this recipe – in the microwave or on the stove. I used the microwave method, because its quicker and that meant less time away from CNN on election night! But I prefer the stove top method; it is much more flavorful and tastes closer to Suri’s masala popcorn. Here are both methods:

Microwave Method

1 bag unpopped microwave popcorn, I used Orville Redenbacher Simply Salted
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Cumin powder- 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder – 1/4 tsp
Paprika – 1/8 – 1/4 tsp

With a sharp knife, make a very tiny slit along the side fold of the popcorn bag. See the picture below. The slit must be near the middle of the length of the popcorn bag because this is where all the corn kernels are sitting. Dont make the slit any wider than the tip of your knife. Now, using a butter knife, carefully add all the spices into the popcorn bag through the slit.

Microwave the popcorn according to the instructions. About half way through, quickly shake the bag so that the spices are distributed evenly. Return to the microwave and finish popping. Be extremely cautious when taking the popcorn out of the microwave and while opening it. The slit on the side will be hot and steamy.

Stove Top Method

Popping corn (not the microwaveable kind) – 1/3 cup unpopped
Canola oil – 1 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder – 1/4 tsp
Paprika – 1/8 – 1/4 tsp
Popcorn Salt

Place a heavy bottomed vessel with a lid on the stove. Heat the oil in the vessel. Add the popping corn and all spices (except salt) to the pot. Turn heat to medium/medium high and put the lid on the pot. When you hear the corn popping, turn down heat just a little. If you need to vent steam, crack the lid open a little.

The paprika will burn easily, so watch the popcorn at all times. When the popcorn is done, sprinkle salt on top while still hot. If you don’t have popcorn salt, make your own by grinding regular salt to a fine powder using a blender.

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