Ever since its appearance in Squid Game, everyone’s been going crazy for dalgona (based on the Korean word dalguna (달고나) that’s roughly translated to “it’s sweet”), the hard, sugary candy featured in one of the challenges in the popular Netflix series. The caramelly honeycomb toffee, often imprinted with fun shapes, is a staple of South Korean street food, but it’s finally getting the worldwide attention it deserves.
While the game –much like the candy– might seem simple at first, the contestants realize that this popular snack is harder to extract than it first appears, making it one of the most ingenious challenges on the way to earning the big cash prize. From its ingredients to how it’s served, there are a lot of fun facts about the Squid Game candy that’s getting its big break.
9 It’s Not A New Candy
While dalgona might be all the rage right now thanks to Squid Game’s harrowing and fantastic third episode, the sweet itself isn’t new. Dalgona has been eaten for decades in South Korea, beginning in the ’70s and ’80s when it was an inexpensive way to have a tasty treat that didn’t take a long time to make.
These days it’s considered a “retro” candy that’s been making a comeback in recent years, and now after the explosive impact of Squid Game, it’s been a part of Tik-Tok challenges and YouTube cooking tutorials.
8 It’s A Popular Street Food
Stroll the streets of Seoul, South Korea, and dalgona vendors can be found on countless corners, each equipped with a small burner, a ladle, and the simple ingredients used to make dalgona for children interested in a quick sugary snack (just like in Sang-woo’s childhood flashback on the playground).
Dalgona is a popular treat with children, not only because of its smokey caramel taste, but because of the fun shapes stamped into it. Different vendors will find their own unique way of putting their mark on the dalgona they serve, some of which are easier to extract than others!
7 It Has Its Own Game
Dalgona is sometimes referred to as ppopgi, which incidentally is also the name of the game played by the children who eat it. Street vendors will occasionally give them small toy prizes if they’re able to extract the fun shape in the candy without breaking it. This can mean that children will go through quite a few dalgona trying to win.
Squid Game’s dalgona game is one of the most difficult in the series, with contestants having just ten minutes to cut out the shape in the cookie, from a relatively simple triangle to a much more complex umbrella, and they are eliminated if their candy cracks even a little.
6 The Candymaker For The Show Sold Over 200 A Day
According to Yahoo, An Yong-hui, the candymaker responsible for making the candies featured in Squid Game, couldn’t keep up with the demand for the treats after the series first aired in September. Normally, he made 200 candies a day, but after that demand skyrocketed into three times that.
With a need for hundreds of dalgona a day, the candy seller didn’t go home for a solid week, spending all of his time creating the umbrellas, stars, circles, and triangles featured in the series.
5 It’s A Simple Recipe
One of the reasons that dalgona is so beloved is because it takes no time to make, combining ingredients most people already have at home. Its main ingredient is sugar, melted until it’s caramelized on the stove, and with the right amount of baking soda added, the resulting reaction creates an airy, crispy candy that’s both beautiful to look at and tasty to eat.
After removing it from the stove, it’s usually poured with a ladle onto parchment paper to cool, and then broken up into chunks by hand or, for an easy on the go snack, has a stick placed into it while it hardens (like a lollipop).
4 It’s Part Of A Difficult Tik-Tok Challenge
Just like in Squid Game, anyone trying to cut out the fun shapes stamped into dalgona will find that it’s no easy task. Using a toothpick, needle, or another thin tool, even trying to trace the point of a star becomes incredibly difficult. That’s why Sang-woo’s deceit at the start of the game, which left his friends woefully unprepared, was one of the worst things he did throughout Squid Game.
The “dalgona challenge” has swept Tik-Tok, with users trying their hand at replicating the competition from the series. When they fail, a clip of a red guard wielding a machine-gun flashes across the screen, signaling their “elimination”.
3 The Cast Can’t Even Perform The Challenge Successfully
According to the cast of Squid Game themselves, it’s nearly impossible to successfully break out the shape because of the brittle nature of the sugar, but thanks to having performed the stressful sequence in the third episode they learned a few tricks, including the one that Seong Gi-hun uses to release his incredibly complicated umbrella.
In a challenge for Men’s Health, four members of the Squid Game cast (Including Wi Ha-jun who played officer Hwang Jun-ho, Kim Joo-yreong who played Han Mi-nyeo, Jung HoYeon who played Jang Sae-byeok, and Anupam Tripath who played Ali Abdul) tried to cut out their shapes while talking about the process of filming the dalgona challenge episode, proving just how difficult it is.
2 It’s Found All Over The World
Dalgona might be very popular in South Korea, but some version of it can be found all over the world. In New Zealand, sugar and baking soda are combined with a little corn syrup to make a honeycomb treat called “hokey pokey” that’s thicker than dalgona and cut into cubes. In Hungary, it’s known as “Turkish honey” and sold at fairs. In Japan, it’s known as karumeyaki, and like dalgona, is sold by street vendors.
When it’s covered in chocolate, it forms the basis for the Crunchie bar in Britain, or in Australia, the Violet Crumble. It can be customized in myriad ways to reflect the country or region where everyone enjoys the crunchy, caramelly snack.
1 It’s Sometimes A Coffee
Prior to the craze over dalgona candy, the internet fell in love with dalgona coffee, which is made by combining instant coffee mix, powdered sugar, and hot water together until it forms a whipped mixture that can be dolloped onto hot or cold milk.
The whipped, caramel-colored topping floating on the drink looks a lot like the dalgona cookie, and it even has a similar taste, but to create the crunch, crumbs of biscuits or sugar crystals can be added on top.
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