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Thursday, 5 January 2012

Incredible Chinese candy: popcorn / rice krispie squares

I was reading the Geeks are Sexy blog and they had an article highlighting a video of someone making "Korean popcorn". Here's the video in question:

Okay, now that video is a little confusing and it appears to show something, but it's not quite what it looks like. The man is cooking rice in a pressure cooker and he suddenly releases the pressure (the bang) and it all flies out. It's not exactly popcorn, but that's what it looks like and that's what Geeks are Sexy are saying that it is. But it isn't.

What he's actually making are Rice Krispie squares. It's an ancient Chinese thing - isn't everything? It seems that the Chinese love to combine fun with their candy to make even the making of it an interesting experience. I've found (well, the wife did) another video showing the whole process more clearly as well as what they do with it afterwards. Oh and they call it something like "fat man rice".

Here's what's happening:
0:02 - He raises the pressure vessel
0:10 - Rice is added
0:22 - The lid is closed. Note the two arms holding the lid down
0:29 - The pressure vessel is swung over a gas flame and oil is added
0:34 - A motor is switched on to start it turning - this stops the rice burning (traditionally they were turned by hand)
0:38 - A cover is put over the vessel to help contain the heat
0:49 - He cleans out the "catcher" box ready for the coming explosion
1:02 - This is what will come out of the pressure vessel - pretty much Rice Krispies
1:13 - Note the saucepan next to the Rice Krispies - it contains maltose
1:20 - Maltose (a sugar extracted from grain) is heated
1:45 - The maltose is added to the Rice Krispies...
1:55 - ...and is stirred in, coating the Krispies
2:39 - The coated Krispies are dumped into a tray ready for the next stage
3:08 - They're rolled out to form a block...
3:45 - ...and then cut into smaller blocks. Note that some other ingredients (peanuts, etc) have been added
3:55 - The blocks are bagged up, ready to hand to customers
4:20 - Note the gauge on the pressure vessel
4:30 - The cover is removed and...
4:34 - ...the pressure vessel is rotate out of the flame and into the "catcher"
4:37 - The cook shouts something like "fire in the hole" to alert passers-by
4:44 - The arms holding the lid on the pressure vessel are released and the rice explodes out, instantly puffing up. And then the process begins again.

Quite an amazing thing really. Although it tends to get billed as oriental popcorn, it really is pretty much rice krispie squares. The only difference between that and what we make as kids is that they use maltose syrup instead of sucrose and that they have the super cool exploding thing. Neat eh?

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