Explosively awesome Chinese popcorn popper

CandyCritic sez, "The kernels are sealed in that thing he's spinning around. As they heat up they don't explode, because they're sealed with no air going in or out. He heats them up to a certain temperature and then he puts the sealed container with hot kernels into a bag. He then opens the container in the bag, allowing the kernels to expand, and every single kernel pops at the same time."

How to make Chinese Popcorn (Thanks, CandyCritic, via Submitterator!)


  1. Ah, it’s all coming back to me now, my childhood in China during the 1980’s. It was always the same old man on a trike, and the throng of children who was there as much for the popcorn as for the little explosions and clouds of escaping steam. Each little plastic bag sold for 10 cents, and for 50 cents he will pop a whole can with the corn or rice that you brought yourself. It always amazed me that a couple of litres of corn at the bottom of a sack would fill it to the brim after popping.

    The kernels aren’t the same as regular popcorn though, instead of a little corn “snowflake” with various protrusions you get round little balls. Probably has to do with the whole kernel expanding quite evenly at the same time.

    1. I’ve noticed that commercial flavored popcorn (such as that found in those big tins containing three flavors) here in the US is typically little round balls rather than the more haphazardly exploded home-made version.

      I’ve been meaning to look into how these were produced. I suspected it might be something like this.

  2. how does it taste? It tastes as good as any dirty sack that’s been lying in the gutter.

    Did you mean the popcorn?

  3. in the 70s, in japan, a guy with a similar contraption came to our hood. we were soooo excited to see him come around again. we’d ask our moms for some money (100 yen? but that seems utterly expensive for 1970s) and a cup of rice and sugar each….

    pop, then like a magic, there in front of our peepers were what i later come to know as rice crispies, but it was sweet!!

  4. anyone else getting the vibe that the popcorn guy wants the tourist to stop circling and pointing the cellphone at him?

  5. Glad to see this made it to the big board. It seemed like a perfect BB 2011 piece. I’m amazed though that this technique hasn’t come to USA carnivals and street fairs yet. BTW popcorn is a decent food and was one of the staples of simple living pioneers Scott and Helen Nearing.

  6. You could probably do this same type of thing in your kitchen if you had a pressure cooker. Heat it up to the desired temperature then hit the pressure release valve and stand back.

  7. anybody notice how much the bag resembles a king-kong sized condom, complete with reservoir tip to catch the popcorn?

  8. I love popcorn! I’d totally want to try this…if the ‘kitchen’ weren’t so freakin’ filthy. I likes my popcorn snow white and buttery, thanks.

  9. That popcorn maker has a turbo! The phrase “The street finds its own uses for things” comes to mind.

  10. The first thing that comes to mind is “kind of dirty. I wouldn’t eat that.” And I live in a poor third world country where things aren’t too clean, compared to all you rich folks in the first world.

  11. I’m thinking about how I could do this at home. A pressure cooker could be used for the heating under pressure stage. One can tell the temperature from the pressure. Releasing the pressure is a problem. I think releasing the pressure through the vent hole would reduce it too slowly to produce the desired effect. Just unlatching the top to release the pressure could be dangerous. I wonder what pressure and temperature he heats it to?

    1. Remove the pressure gauge and set it aside, replace it with a black pipe nipple and a t junction. Attache the pressure gauge to the top of the T and a quick action ball valve on the remaining leg. Point the business end of the ball valve away from you and anyone you are fond of before opening the valve.

  12. Don’t think a pressure cooker will work. These things need to get up to 10 atmospheres of pressure (around 145 PSI)to keep the grain unpopped under pressure, while pressure cookers are rated between 0.6-2.5 atmospheres of pressure (10-36 PSI).

    In other words theres a reason his is made of hugely thick metal.

    1. I misread the operating pressure on pressure cookers my first time through.

      In theory, the use of the pressure cooker would raise the temperature at which the kernel would burst, I suspect that rapidly heating the kernels while keeping them all below that new temperature until the magic moment when the valve is opened probably is not possible.

  13. Awww brings back memories from my childhood.
    The popcorn man would come to the block once or twice a week, and my grandma would go downstairs with a bucket. I’d then wait for the telltale POOF! and a few minutes later she’d come back with a bucketful of popcorn.

    Those were the days.

    ‘Tis a shame so many people can only see the bag and the sidewalk…

  14. After discovering this video I searched frantically for one that would actually show the popcorn but had no luck. If there are any industrious science teachers/makers out there, maybe making one of these with a clear bag would help educated and feed people. It could also be a lucrative business as well.

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