For the uninitiated (hard to imagine!), Netflix’s latest South Korean offering Squid Game has now sparked a Dalgona candy craze.
A delightful gamble for the kids of South Korea, dalgona candy is part sweet treat, part game. Also known as honeycomb, ppopgi, and now dalgona candy, the sugary delight has seen a resurgence in popularity following Squid Game’s massive global acclaim.
The local treat is deceptively simple, consisting primarily of melted sugar frothed with a pinch of baking soda. The candy makers then imprint one of several shapes including a star, umbrella, triangle, and circle onto the candy. Essentially, if you manage to carve out the shape intact, you win another one. The players in the show, however, face much more dire consequences for the children’s game.
The candy’s growing fanbase massively impacted An Yong-hui, 37, who has been making it for nearly eight years in a university district in Seoul. For the filming of Squid Game’s third episode in June 2020, he and his coworkers used 15 kg (33 lb) of sugar to make 700 candies. The show’s creators had initially joked of the dalgona craze coming back thanks to the episode, but couldn’t have predicted the craze that ensued.
The inexpensive and accessible factors of dalgona candy are what made it an easy crowd favourite amongst children. Initially, glucose was used in lieu of raw sugar to minimize expenses. The former was replaced post the Korean war, when companies began processing sugar from its raw form, and the toffee-coloured candy’s presence grew in the 1960s.
As the show promises, however, capitalism doesn’t bring any good without hidden consequences. In the early 2000s, online shopping and South Korea’s candy industry boomed parallelly, drawing the curtains on this retro favourite.
For participants of the Dalgona coffee trend in the early days of the pandemic, the bittersweet, nutty taste of the candy isn’t unfamiliar territory. Incidentally, the coffee craze began with actor Jung II-woo’s experiments on “Stars’ Top Recipe at Fun-Staurant”, a South Korean television show. The actor’s mention of the coffee’s likeness to his childhood favourite sweet sparked the unofficial naming and subsequent feverish trend across the globe.
Like most trends, TikTok also spearheaded the Dalgona candy fascination. There’s everything from recipes to challenges and even re-enactments of the iconic episode. The “Toffee Game” effect has emerged as one of the more interesting social media experiments. Using the show’s signature haunting music, users must use their faces to carve out the shapes on the cookies — a digital mirror of the challenge. The effect has over 49.9K videos and counting at the time of this writing.
A few pockets have expressed reservations over this ‘discovery of South Korean culture’. As the world walks the tightrope between innocent discovery and fetishising of foreign cultures, it’s important to tread cautiously. References to the dalgona candy as a ‘Squid Game’ cookie reveal a Westernization of culture that has existed for decades.
All this talk of dalgona candy is bound to get your palette eager. So put your culinary skills to the test with a simple recipe.
- 3 tbsp sugar
- A pinch of baking soda
- In a pan, caramelise the sugar and add a pinch of baking soda to give it a honeycomb texture. Mix well.
- Pour the caramelised sugar on a baking sheet.
- Just before it is about to set, use a cutter to make a design of your choice. Remove the designed piece with a pin once the candy is set.