It would be an understatement to say dalgona is booming in popularity. It’s turning into a phenomenon across the world as more and more people watch the record-breaking show Squid Game. This show has been gaining popularity ever since Hwang Dong Hyuk worked for years to get his script approved, and got it signed by Netflix.
For those of you who don’t know, Squid Game follows contestants through a game show of death, but the really creepy part is this; they have to play childhood games. From red light-green light to tug-of-war, the show puts a dark twist on all of our old favorites. During the second episode, the contestants are playing a game with a candy called dalgona, and if they fail, they die. Audiences immediately fell in love with the dish!
This sweet candy is taking the world by the hand and showing them the beauties of the Korean sweet tooth. It was even trending before Squid Game because of the dalgona coffee trend! In moments like these, it reminds everyone that it’s important to read about another culture and its food. What better way to bond with someone than over food? Food has the power to adjust our mood, energy, and emotional stability, and it has the ability to teach us to care. By starting with dalgona, we can look at the desserts of Korea and understand its people just a little bit better.
What is dalgona?
Dalgona is a South Korean dessert made by melting sugar and baking soda. It’s simple, but absolutely delicious. The key to making the dalgona work is adding the baking soda to create the chemical reaction that makes the melted sugar puffy, almost like a wafer, and so easy to adapt into a game.
Why does this work?
The heat from the melted sugar will create carbon dioxide. This gas tries to escape, and creates little air bubbles and gives it the “honey comb” texture. This makes the candle brittle and fragile, lending it to more creative candy makers. It also makes it water soluble, and it will melt in your mouth with delicious ease.
Where did the dessert come from?
In the 1960s, this candy began popping up all over the streets of Busan. As the sweet gained popularity, parents and others were jumping on the dalgona train since it was so easy to make.
Fun fact! The name dalgona stems from the Korean word “Dalguna”, meaning sweet.
Ppopgi, or, “to pick” is another popular name for this sweet. This is in reference to your ability to choose different shapes before playing the game.
What’s the dalgona game?
Traditionally, this candy can be enjoyed by picking out the impressed shape from the candy. You can do this with a small pin or toothpick, or, as seen in Squid Game, you can use your saliva to dissolve the sugar. If you’d like, you can watch the Squid Game interpretation of the game here. Graphic content warning! While the scene is fantastic, be warned that it is very graphic and violent.
If you’re in the mood to try some dalgona, fear not! There’s plenty of people sharing their traditional recipes and their stories, so you can join the dalgona fan base.
Beyond Kimchee has a wonderful dalgona recipe that will have you thinking back to your childhood with the author. The days of stealing sugar under your parents’ noses and trying your hand at cooking just like professionals are brought up as the dalgona takes its shape. When Holly finishes reminiscing about her childhood, she gives a list of necessary tools, as well as helpful tips to ensure your dalgona is to die for! Including helpful pictures and serving this recipe is a wonderful go-to for anyone planning on replicating this delightful treat. Try making this recipe in a pinch; it takes less than 10 minutes to have it ready to serve!
If you’re out and about in Houston, Texas, and you find yourself hunting for some delicious honeycomb goodness, make your way to MDK Noodles! This delicious H-Town location offers bulgogi, bimbimbab, and so many more scrumptious options! Recently, with Squid Game rising to an insane level of popularity, this restaurant took it’s place in the limelight, offering dalgona as a dessert for a limited time.
Let’s get caffeinated!
If dalgona sounds good to you, you need to try dalgona coffee. You can make this with milk (or any milk alternatives), instant coffee, and sugar. It’s easy enough, and is crazy popular at the moment. It’s a wonderful way for you to hop on the dalgona trend with a much easier recipe.
To make this simple treat, you mix your instant coffee with milk and sugar, then froth it up. Almost like you’re making whipped cream! You then serve it on top of iced milk. How do you drink it? Well, a straw might work, but they advise mixing the coffee froth into your milk. This will give you a lovely texture to the drink, similar to a cappuccino!
Fun Fact: It’s called dalgona coffee because of the light, fluffy nature of the drink, similar to the candy!
If you’d like to make your own, Hummingbird High has a very helpful recipe! Not only do they have pictures to walk you through the process, but they supply plenty of information about alternatives and different recipes you can try. Even a pumpkin spice recipe to get you ready for the fall season!
If you want to read more about the fall traditions, check out these articles here!
Bungeoppang is derived from an older Japanese tradition named Taiyaki, which is probably the version you’re familiar with. Filling a fish shaped waffle cone with red bean paste, the Japanese and Koreans often top it with ice cream in the summer months or enjoy it as is. In the 1930s, the Japanese shared their recipe with the Korean’s, and it became a Korean street food staple.
For more Japanese food facts, visit my blog on soy sauce!
More recently, it’s evolved into Aboong, which is very similar to this fishy goody. However, the big difference lies in the design of the fish’s mouth. Traditionally, the finned dessert sports a closed mouth, almost in a frown. Aboong takes it up a notch by opening the fish’s mouth, allowing a large bowl shape to hold even more sweet goods.
This dessert is extremely popular in many Asian dessert restaurants, especially in the summer time. If you’re looking to spoil your dinner and indulge your sweet tooth, come by Houston, Texas to check out Somi Somi. This restaurant offers aboong, along with mix-and-match fillings for the cones, and delicious cookies to sprinkle on top! If you want to go traditional, they offer Taiyaki as well.
If you’d rather try your hand at making it yourself, there are plenty of people out there with helpful recipes, as long as you have the right tools. For an easy to follow recipe, visit My Korean Kitchen. Here, you’ll find memories that focus on bungeoppang, as well as an easy-to-follow recipe. It even features suggestions on how you can fill your delicious treat, including a savory choice! This delightful dessert takes less than half an hour to make, and is a wonderful party food or to-go snack.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more colorful and elegant, then dasik tea cookies are the best option for you. These adorable cookies are a wonderful addition to a party, or even a beautiful snack to enjoy in a professional setting.
These cookies are made by coloring dough and mixing it with pollen and ground sesame seeds, as well as honey syrup. These don’t require any baking, or any special supplies (unless you absolutely have to have the designs). You can roll these into balls and enjoy as is, for a simple sweet snack.
What’s the big deal?
While the name “dasik” may sound pretty, it literally means “something eaten with tea”. Different herbs, flour sources, and pollen made the dasik different colors, and gave each one a unique flavor. Popping up sometime during the Koryo dynasty (early 10th century), they became known as a regional specialty in modern day Seoul.
Fun fact: Even though we adore dasik with their beautiful shapes today, they weren’t recorded as having molds until the 18th century.
Different regions had different preparation practices for the dasik cookies, some even boiled their dasik for quite a while before letting it cool!
Time to eat!
If you want to try your hand at making some dasik cookies, feel free to check out Kimchi Mari. This recipe walks you through an easy recipe, with images to help you compare your progress. It also comes with fun stories and beautiful pictures of her work. Serving suggestions at the end pull the whole recipe together and really make it worth it. Best part is, it takes about half an hour to make, and they’re easy to store!
Another great recipe to refer to can be found on Maagchi. This one walks you through each, individual cookie color, and how to prepare each one to ensure an easy make. The author does warn you about the “delicate balance” that is needed between the honey and the mixture, otherwise your dasik may end up runny! However, it’s a delicious recipe, and certainly worth testing out.
To read up more on other desserts, be sure to check out my ice cream blog!
Maybe you prefer fried goods, or something a bit crispier. If that’s your preference, Yakgwa (also known as Yakwa) may be the best option for you! With a ginger honey syrup, soju, and pine nuts, this delicious treat should certainly be added to your list of cooking projects!
Fun fact: the name means “medicinal confection”!
Yakwa is a fried pastry, and it takes a little while to set everything up for the recipe. First, you need to make the batter, using pine nuts, honey, sou (or sake), and flour. Once you have your batter ready, you can shape it however you wish, and fry it in sesame oil. From there, you let them soak up a delicious ginger syrup.
This cookie may seem small, but it’s history reaches as far back as the 10th century! Used traditionally in Buddhist rites, this dessert grew to represent people’s dreams and wishes. Each shape you chose (often different animals, fruits, or flowers) meant something special.
As it spread, many locations simplified into circles, spheres, or cubes. It’s still adored across Korea, and it remains a perfect gift for special occasions.
Make your own
If you’d like to make your own yakgwa, there are plenty of options out there. Kimchi Mari has a brilliant recipe, complete with images throughout, to walk you through the difficult steps. With helpful storing tips and suggestions on what tools will make this the easiest option, this recipe is a wonderful go-to for this snack.
Another recipe that will show you the ropes can be found on The Cookist. This recipe has some fun facts for you to read up on about yakgwa, as well as information about the shapes. It also has a baking option for those of you who don’t want to fry the cookies. With information on how to get the flower shape, it’s a wonderful alternative for anyone wanting to get more creative.
Why study the sweet tooth?
Humanity is funny sometimes. We get locked into this idea that people in another culture are completely different, and there’s not really anything we have in common with them. This thought process makes us cold and hurtful, making our decisions thoughtless. We forget how to love other cultures because we let ourselves forget that they’re people too.
However, if we take a second to look at their culture, and look at how similar they are to us, we can grow to love them. Just knowing they like sweets, knowing the story behind the desserts, realizing their sweet tooth isn’t so different from ours, can make all the difference in the world. It can make you a sweeter person. If everybody took the time to understand the story behind dalgonas, dasik, and all the others, we could all be just that much better people to those around us.