HK's popcorn decoded - which cinema has the yummiest and which is best for value?

Lucy Christie |

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YP team picked the best of best from 19 different kinds of popcorns.

Salted or sweet? It might not be the million dollar question, but popcorn can make or break movie night. In Hong Kong, however, with so many different cinemas, there is no guarantee that you’ll get the same popcorn everywhere you go. In fact, we’ve experienced first-hand the frustrations of expecting some caramel goodness to then realise a cinema only stocks salted. So, the ever-dedicated Young Post team has scoured the 852 for weeks, meticulously tasting kernels of corn to find out which cinema has the best popcorn in Hong Kong.

The cinemas reviewed include a selection of venues from chains across Golden Harvest, MCL, The Grand, UA Cinemas, AMC, and the Palace IFC. Garrett is our wild card; while not technically a cinema popcorn, the brand has outlets conveniently located right next to many cinemas in the city, so we thought it was worth adding to the comparison.

Most variety: Garrett

When it comes to variety, Garrett comes out on top. They offer a whopping six standard flavours, and up to two seasonal flavours.

Best crunch: The Grand and Palace IFC

The Grand and Palace IFC had the strongest crunch factor on initial tasting. Be warned though, that even crunchier varieties went soft and chewy after a few hours. All of the cinemas we spoke to advised that popcorn is a snack best suited for instant, on-site consumption.

Best salted: AMC

“This is the definition of classic, cinema popcorn,” says sub editor and popcorn aficionado Lucy Christie.

Best sweet/caramel: Garrett

Garrett has the best caramel one. Reporter Lauren James describes it as tasting “like sticky toffee pudding.” The caramel crisp has a very strong, dark caramel flavour. Compared to other caramel popcorns that we tried, this one is much more intense – it seems like popcorn that has been dipped in melted caramel, rather than a caramel powder or flavouring. This means it is thicker, and while very tasty, it is also sickly sweet so it might be hard to eat a whole bag.

Biggest: Palace IFC and AMC

Palace IFC and AMC tie for the title of biggest cinema popcorn. As sub-editor Ginny Wong says of Palace IFC, “The large size is definitely worth it [at HK$56]. There’s only a HK$10 difference between small and large – why would anyone get the small?” (The team ruled that Garrett’s jumbo size is just excessive, and at HK$90-HK$240, it is shockingly expensive.)

Smallest: Garrett

“The small size is actually enough [for the Macademia flavour one] as it’s quite sickly so this is all you’d need between two people,” says reporter Lauren James.

Best non-traditional flavour: The curry flavour from The Grand

Deputy Editor Karly Cox describes it as: “Really pleasantly surprising. Not cheap, but a nice treat. Very moreish.” Editor Susan Ramsay adds: “It mostly tastes like BBQ, with occasional hints of curry.”

Don’t bother trying: The strawberry popcorn at UA

It’s sickly sweet and tastes very fake. “Whose idea was strawberry?!”says sub editor Sam Gusway, summing up what the entire team was thinking, and web reporter Young Wang adds that is tastes “very artificial”.

Avoid at all costs: The cheese and bacon one from Golden Harvest

“I know now what smelly feet that stepped in dog vomit tastes like,” says web editor Heidi Yeung, which was a sentiment shared by the majority of the team.

Best cinema overall for the popcorn experience: Palace IFC

For a combination of good value, crunchy, tasty popcorn, and a variety of flavours and sizes, Palace IFC comes out on top. There is a nice variety of sizes, and the prices are reasonable and good value. Both the salted and the sweet taste good, and both were consistent in their flavourings.

Don’t fall for …

The team agreed that the Palace IFC seems like the best value, at HK$56 for a large (85oz). Although this is technically the same size as UA’s large size, the bucket-style box at Palace means this definitely feels bigger, and tricked a lot of the team into thinking it was bigger, and therefore better value, than the UA one (HK$47 for a large/85oz).

The almond caramel crisp and macadamia caramel crisp both taste almost the exact same as the caramel one; the only difference is that there are almonds or macadamia nuts tossed in the mixture, so considering how much more expensive they are (HK$65 for a small as opposed to HK$35 for a small caramel crisp), they’re probably not worth it, unless you really love almonds or macadamia nuts.