Five places for Hong Kong gourmet popcorn: curry, milk tea, chilli among the flavours
Originally published at the South China Morning Post on August 21, 2015.
For those of you with a sweet tooth, get ready to try Sweet Monster, a popular ice-cream chain in South Korea that opened its first Hong Kong store in Mong Kok’s Langham Place this month. Cute monsters adorn the walls of this shop, best known to locals for its popcorn ice cream. For HK$39, you get a monster-sized soft serve topped one of five popcorn flavours – caramel, milk, cheese, strawberry and chocolate.
The most popular flavour of popcorn is the caramel, but coated with flavouring, it’s very sugary. If you prefer something slightly more savoury, try the cheese flavour instead. The popcorn (which you can also buy separately), is made using non-GMO corn, meaning it’s not oil-fried and contains no saturated or trans-fats. The ice cream is handmade, and contains 75 per cent milk. The shop also serves milkshakes and juice drinks. It’s very popular; on our visit, there was a queue of more than 20 minutes.
Shop 10-19, 3/F, Langham Place, 8 Argyle Street, Mong Kok. Open daily: 11.30am-10pm
If you’re in the mood for something a little more wild, then Sote – Salt of the Earth – is the perfect place to test your palate. Here, you’ll find unique flavours such as curry, chilli and lemon as well as your regular classics. Founders Chelsea Wong and Kate Daniel – who met while working as performers at Disneyland and bonded over their shared love of the crunchy snack – wanted to create a place where people can get freshly made, artisanal popcorn. Prepared daily, the popcorn here is made using organic coconut oil and contains all natural ingredients, with no GMOs or preservatives.
We recommend their bestseller, The Cha Cha (HK$30) – milk-tea-flavoured popcorn inspired by the city’s favourite beverage – or The Big Cheese, (HK$30) which is coated with cheddar cheese and black pepper.
21 Robinson Road, Mid-levels, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open: Tuesday to Saturday noon-8pm
Warm wood décor and soft jazz music make Dessert Gallery an unusual escape from the hustle and bustle of Yuen Long. And its snacks and desserts are no slouch either.
True to its name, there’s plenty on offer here, but the highlights are the spicy popcorn sundae (HK$58) and rum and spicy tower (HK$52) The shop’s special house-made popcorn, made from chilli flakes and peanuts, is delightfully chewy, and its spices blend well with the sweetness in both desserts, delivering a sharp kick.
“I was eating ice cream one day and I mixed it with popcorn. And I thought – this is actually pretty good,” says co-owner Kenneth Lee Chun-kit. “It’s one of the stranger desserts in our shop. There’s nothing else like it in Yuen Long.”
The sundae is made of popcorn, Mövenpick vanilla ice cream, peanuts, a souffle biscuit, caramelised almonds and a crisp, thin biscuit on top. Try the rum and spicy tower, which includes a vanilla panna cotta, rum and raisin ice-cream, and peanuts along with the popcorn. Tofu-like in texture, the panna cotta is made using 4.3 per cent milk from Japanese brand Meiji, for an intense milky flavour.
Shop 31, G/F, Shun Fung Building, 5-7, Fung Yau Street North, Yuen Long, tel: 6695 8734. Open: Sunday and Tuesday to Thursday 3pm-12am. Friday to Saturday 3pm-1am
The Drunken Duck
Opened in May by the Enoteca restaurant group, this British gastropub with an Asian twist may not be a place you’d expect to find popcorn, yet, along with marinated duck and pan-roasted shrimp on the appetiser menu is caramelised popcorn with chilli flakes and bacon bits (HK$68).
Chef David Tamlyn, who worked in Michelin-starred restaurants Pied-a-Terre and The Square in London, explains that their popcorn has “a salty, sweet, chilli flavour”. We certainly agree with the chilli part. One bite and we were engulfed in its strong spiciness, and the bacon bits add a fun, crispy texture with a smoky aftertaste.
Tamlyn says the corn is popped daily and kept in sealed jars with silica gel to absorb humidity, which explains why it’s oh-so-crunchy.
44 Staunton Street SoHo, Central, tel: 2803 0050. Open: Sunday to Thursday noon-11pm. Friday to Saturday noon-12am
Garrett Popcorn Shops
For an old-time favourite, you can drop by Garrett Popcorn Shops – a classic that originated in Chicago and has branches in the IFC and Festival Walk malls. Garrett offers traditional flavours (salted, caramel) and nutty variations like almond and cashew. Their popcorn is handmade daily and sold in both bags and tin cans.
A new shop is coming September 1 to Yuen Long’s Yoho mall, and they tell us there will be more shops opening within the next couple of years.
IFC Mall Shop 1050, 8 Finance Street, Central, tel: 2234 7494. Open: Monday to Sunday 10am-10pm.
Shop UG-24, Festival Walk, 80 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong, tel: 2234 7738. Open: Monday to Sunday 10.30am-10.30pm