When Ben and I first started dating, I taught him how to temper black mustard seeds, asafetida, curry leaves, and red chiles in oil to make several South Indian dishes. He took that lesson and applied it to one of his specialties, homemade popcorn. He seasons melted butter with the spices and then finishes off the popcorn with tangy nutritional yeast. We became so obsessed with his recipe that movie popcorn was no longer suitable. We would sneak brown paper bags of his homemade popcorn into the theater, and still do.
We usually buy popcorn kernels from the farmers’ market, and we’ve even made it with popcorn on the cob that we’ve gotten from our farm share. To make this recipe vegan, substitute coconut oil for the butter. Before you begin the recipe, make sure to have a lid for the vessel you are using to pop your kernels. We have found a wok works best for this recipe.
- Put the oil in a wok or large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the popcorn kernels.
- Swirl the pan around so the kernels get coated with the oil.
- Cover the pan. Turn the heat to medium. You will hear a few kernels start to pop after 2 minutes. Shake the wok from time to time, so that the kernels get evenly popped. While the kernels are popping, keep the lid slightly ajar so some steam can escape. This will help the popcorn crisp up. When the popping starts to subside, after about 4 minutes, you will have a wok or pot full of popcorn.
- Turn off the heat. Transfer the popcorn to a large serving bowl.
- Put the butter in the same wok over medium heat. When melted, add one black mustard seed. When the seed sizzles and pops, add the rest of the mustard seeds and the asafetida. Keep a lid handy to cover the pan while the mustard seeds are popping. When the popping starts to subside (a few seconds), turn the heat to medium-low.
- Rub the curry leaves between your fingers a little to release their natural oils, and drop them, the turmeric powder, and dried red chiles into the butter. Cover immediately, as moisture from the curry leaves will cause the butter to spatter. Stir to evenly coat everything with butter, a few seconds.
- Immediately pour the butter mixture over the popcorn. Add salt to taste as soon as you pour the butter, so that it sticks to the popcorn. Mix thoroughly. Add 2 tablespoons of the nutritional yeast and mix well. Then add the remaining 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast and mix thoroughly. Serve warm.
Reprinted with permission from Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn by Chitra Agrawal, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.