I like popcorn. Plain, buttered, sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese (my most recent prepared-at-home addiction), dusted with Cajun seasoning—everything is fair game when it comes to popcorn. So when magnetic rose started waxing poetic about her newest popcorn discovery, I knew I had to scamper over to SM Mall of Asia to give it a shot.
Stepping inside the glass, brick and wood store, you get assailed by a buttery, tantalizing scent that makes you look forward to the experiences to come. A smile sprouts on my face. And the smile gets wider as the store’s friendly personnel hands us samples and cheerfully answers all the questions our happy little group asked.
A popcorn concept originating from Chicago, Chicago Popcorn Shops offers Cheese, Caramel (Kharmel, insists the shopkeeper, like how they pronounce it in Chicago), and Chicago Mix—a combination of the two flavors. I taste it separately. The caramel is good. Sweet and wholesome, with a nice crunch, thanks to the caramel coating. I try the cheese. It’s good as well, with the cheese nicely clinging to the popcorn. None of the cheap, powdery flavorings. “Try it together,” insists magnetic rose. I shrug and pop a piece each of the caramel and the cheese in my mouth. Explosions happen as I curse, eat more, curse again, then wail as I face an inner struggle between buying the largest size and trying to be conservative with that day’s spending.
While Chicago Popcorn Shops’ popcorn is more expensive than some other brands (heck, you can buy a cheap bag of commercial caramel popcorn for 10-20 pesos), paying the premium is worth it as the flavors dance on your tongue, alternating between sweet and salty. The only problem I see is how you can’t stop eating! Because you alternate between sweet and salty, it takes longer for taste fatigue to set in. By the time you get tired of eating, I bet you’d have eaten through the can.
Freshly made in batches throughout the day, I caught them making fresh batches of popcorn while I was there and I was quite surprised to see them using a sauce to coat the popcorn, not only for the caramel but for the cheese as well. I guess this is why their popcorn has intense flavors; because the coatings stick to the popcorn well instead of falling off like what happens sometimes with powdered flavorings.
The Chicago mix variant is combined as you order, so you can specify the proportions you want. I tend to favor salty stuff so I went with more cheese, 60% to 40% caramel. They also encourage their customers to reuse the cans—in fact, they offer a substantial discount when you opt to have your old cans refilled instead of getting a new can. My only peeve is that the cans don’t keep the popcorn as fresh as I’d like. While the caramel variant remained crisp throughout the 3 long days I managed to make my can last, the cheese got a little tough. I’ll probably transfer the contents of the can to an airtight container next time I buy.
So, next time you’re in the Mall of Asia, make sure to drop by and grab some popcorn. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a pleasant flavor attack on your tastebuds.
Chicago Popcorn Shops can be found at the 2/L Entertainment Mall, Mall of Asia. A new shop is in the works but they’re still choosing a location. *crossing her fingers for Glorietta / Greenbelt*