Popcorn-infused half-and-half and Japanese culinary ingredients like mochiko rice flour, tamari, black sesame paste, and nori furikake mingle in a tray bake that marries two of my favorite childhood treats: butter mochi and Hurricane Popcorn—butter-coated popcorn seasoned with flakes of seasoned nori and toasted sesame seeds mixed with savory arare crackers.
Growing up in Kaneohe, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, I was privy to a myriad of Asian, Polynesian, and American culinary influences. As a ’90s tween cruising Windward Mall, I remember being utterly captivated by the wafting aroma of savory, buttery, furikake popcorn emanating from a little cart parked under the mall’s center court skylight. It was at this very cart that the mixing of popcorn and cross-cultural toppings grew into the Hawaiian Hurricane Popcorn Company. Picture buttery popcorn meets the savory umami of seaweed, toasty roasted sesame seeds, and salty shoyu-coated Japanese rice crackers in a storm of textural and flavorful goodness. Folks with a hankering for Hurricane Popcorn can order convenient packs online and receive everything needed to re-create the mouthwatering experience, from their microwave popcorn to the signature clear bag for mixing.
Butter mochi is the Hawaiian grandmother, the tutu, of what food writers today are calling “mochi cake.” It’s a more supple, and yet somehow denser, version of pound cake with much, much more chew thanks to the textural magic conjured by sweet rice flour.
In this recipe, popcorn-infused half-and-half flavors the ooey-gooey butter mochi base for salty swirls of tamari black sesame paste and sprinkles of nori furikake. Although completely optional, I highly recommend grabbing some kakimochi or arare (Japanese rice crackers) and affixing them to the sticky edges of your cooled and sliced butter mochi pieces for extra crunch!
For best savory results, use a “movie theater–style" microwave popcorn and let it steep in the half-and-half overnight. If using a lightly salted popcorn, you may want to add an additional ½ teaspoon of salt to the butter mochi batter or infused half-and-half. If you like your popcorn flavor less salty, no need to add additional salt.
—Daphne K. Jenkins
- Prep time 55 minutes
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 16
popped popcorn, preferably “movie theater”–style microwave popcorn
plus 2 tablespoons of black sesame paste, mixed well
packed light brown sugar
(16-ounce) box Koda Farms Blue Star Mochiko
double-acting baking powder
(400 grams) granulated sugar
(13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk (I like Aroy-d or Chaokoh)
nori furikake, divided
arare Japanese rice crackers (for serving, optional)
- In a small saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a boil over medium heat, then carefully add the popcorn and reduce the heat to low. Stir until the popcorn is submerged, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit until cooled to room temperature, about 30 minutes, or transfer to the refrigerator and let infuse for up to 12 hours. Once cooled, strain the mixture through a stainless-steel mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup and press out as much liquid as possible from the popcorn. Set aside, discard the popcorn, and wipe out the saucepan (you'll use it again).
- Place an oven rack in the center position and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12x12x2-inch aluminum cake pan with parchment paper. (Alternatively, grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with a bit of extra butter.)
- In a small bowl, combine the black sesame paste, tamari, and light brown sugar. Whisk and don’t worry if the mixture seizes. Add ¼ cup of water to the mixture, stirring until the texture becomes creamy and less dense. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla together until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure out 2 cups of the cooled popcorn-infused half-and-half and whisk into the egg mixture. (If you are short of 2 cups, use water to make up the difference. )
- In a large bowl, whisk together the mochiko, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center and use a silicone spatula to fold in the egg mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix well until smooth.
- Place the butter and coconut milk in the reserved saucepan over low heat. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool until just warm, about 5 minutes. Using the silicone spatula, add the butter mixture to the large bowl with the batter, stirring until the batter is uniform. Scrape all of the batter into the prepared baking pan. Carefully tap the baking pan on the counter a few times to pop air bubbles in the batter.
- Use a spoon to gently dollop the tamari black sesame mixture over the surface of the batter, approximately 2 inches apart. Use a butter knife, bamboo skewer, or cake tester to swirl through the dollops, spiraling the paste throughout the batter. Sprinkle 3 teaspoons of the nori furikake evenly across the batter. Bake for 1 hour, rotating the pan halfway through. It’s done when the butter mochi surface is golden brown and the edges are blushing with caramel color. After baking, immediately top with the remaining 1 teaspoon of nori furikake. Let cool completely before cutting into 16 squares and serving.
- If you'd like, serve with rice crackers: Use the crackers to pick up the sticky edge of each mochi slice for a texture-filled bite.