Food for Thought: Damn You Popin’ Cookin’!!!! – A Guide to keep Calm and Carry on Popin’ Cookin’

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley.”
From Poem “To A Mouse” by Robert Burns
It was suppose to be a quick, and fun, arts and crafts experience; something sisters could bond over, and enjoy together.  That plan went sideways fast, real fast.
We were prepared.  I had a Youtube video featuring my sushi kit and my sister, The Planner, downloaded the English instructions for her bento box kit directly from the manufacturer’s website (which I personally thought was cheating by the way).

Our experience could be best summed up with a quote from The Planner, which sort of went like this:
“If there is a Hell, I bet you just make Popin’ Cookin’ kits for the rest of eternity and if you mess up this stupid panda bear, you would have to start over again and again.”


The thing about the Popin’ Cookin’ kits is that I’m sure the people who create them probably have degrees in industrial design.  Everything in the kit has a purpose and there is a natural linear logic to the pictograph instructions.
The problem is the unexpected will happen.  The instructions will not account for common mishaps, which then turns the entire experience, if you let it, into a massive mind f*&^%k.
Here are some tips I’ll impart after my D.I.Y. sushi candy experience – may it be a cautionary tale.
Cover your work surface with paper towels! The powder from the various packets will billow everywhere even if you are careful.  Although, the room will smell like candy.  I assume the Willy Wonka Chocolate factory may smell like this.


For the love of all that is good in life, DO NOT THROW OUT THE plastic wrapper that encases the plastic container.  The wrapper has additional instructions for certain parts of your candy which the website won’t have a translation for.
Also it may have presentation pieces that can be used to help display the finished candy.  For my sushi, there were “plates” I could cut out.
Examine ALL the instructions.  Whether you are just going to wing it by just looking at the pictures like I did or downloading some of the English instructions, make sure you review both the box and the plastic wrapper.


The box LIES by telling you that all you need is water.  After reviewing all the information, one will discover you’ll need more things like scissors, tape and even a toothpick.  It’s better to gather all the tools necessary at the beginning than running around, like a headless chicken, looking for things mid process.


Wash your hands – You know where your hands have been.  They give you little tiny dinky stirring sticks and you will eventually use your fingers for some things out of frustration.


Line-up all the packets in the order you see on the Content Panel on the box.  This is the order that you will use the packets in and it will keep everything organized.
Only cut a small opening on the packets so you can better control how fast the powder comes out.  Also pour out the contents of the sachet as close to the bottom of container as possible so the contents don’t bounce up.  These 2 tips will help prevent dust clouds from forming and you from inhaling that dust cloud. I smelt candy for a few hours after we were done – it was unsettling.


There is a line etched in the container to indicate how much water you should put into each space.  It’s faint but it’s there.  I don’t recommend filling it past that line since it affects the consistency of the candy.  Also too much water will create unintended splashing.


Don’t stir angry!  You really have to stir to make sure you dissolve all the powder but using power stokes actually works against you.  It’s really easy to splash up the liquid into other compartments of the container.  I found dainty small circular stirs worked the best.


The side of the jelly you see can look messed up (bumpy, uneven etc), especially if you accidently hurled half the mixture out of the intended space.  What matters is the bottom, which can’t be seen.  This is why it’s important to make sure you dissolved the powder properly.


Lastly if your jelly doesn’t pop out easily, just wait!  The mixture probably hasn’t set properly.  Do other things like work on the presentation pieces or vent your frustrations on Twitter. 
Despite all the setbacks, I did experience something very cool.  I think creating the “ikura” for my sushi is probably the closest I’m going to get to molecular gastronomy.
Yum chemicals.
After all this work and 45 minutes of my life, the sushi candy definitely taste like bubble gum and that artificial grape flavour that children like.  It’s like how I loved Fruit By The Foot as a kid but as an adult I find it cloying sweet and gross. 


I always assumed Popin’ Cookin’ was for Japanese elementary students, who are clearly geniuses if they can make this quickly, since the finished candy appeals to children’s palates.  However, The Planner, noted that there isn’t an age guide which you usually find on children’s toys and products on the Popin Cookin’ boxes.  Perhaps these are not meant for children to make, only to eat???


I definitely “enjoyed” the process more than the finished sushi candy.  Here’s The Planner’s finished bento box, which took 70 minutes for her to complete – she had issues, despite the English instructions.
In retrospect, I’m sure this experience will end up being a great story and the bonding experience that my sister and I will have a good laugh at when we’re in our old age. It wasn’t such as a waste of time. 


In fact, I would maybe try another Popin’ Cookin’ kit but definitely not the ones that require a microwave.  I can only imagine the crap that could happen if you add radiation to these kits – maybe you can end up travelling through space and time.
Below is the video I used for my sushi kit.  I adore Simon and Martina from @eatyourkimchi and their Youtube channel focusing on food, product testing and Korean culture.  I get their sense of humour.  Their video on royal Korean cuisine really changed my point of view on Korean food as a whole.
If you want to try these Popin Cookin Kits after reading this post, you can get them at all T&T stores and at Konbiniya on Robson street.

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