Calling Squid Game fans! Here's a recipe for Dalgona Candy, the popular, nostalgic Korean street food sweet. Even if you haven't watched Squid Game, this tasty and easy Dalgona candy is like a delicious disc of honeycomb and worth making in itself! It's also perfect to serve at Halloween too!
Squid Game is a new television series that everyone is talking about. It's the most watched series in Netflix's history across all countries. I watched the first episode about three quarters of the way through and it didn't grab me but when everyone started talking about it I gave it another try and once I got to the second episode I was hooked. It's based in South Korea with an all Korean cast and is available with subtitles or dubbed.
It's a very layered show with lots of commentary about aspects of Korean society. However it is also extremely violent so not for the squeamish or kids. It also gave me nightmares every night so I binged it so that I could sleep more soundly. But it's a riveting storyline. Basically it references the pervasive problem of personal debt in Korean society and in the story, people that are in deep debt are offered a chance to compete in life or death challenges where if you lose you die. The games themselves are based on games they played as kids with a macabre twist.
I don't want to give anything else away but one of the games involves Dalgona candy. So you may have read about Dalgona coffee and Dalgona candy is not coffee flavoured but it's basically a round disc of honeycomb with an imprinted shape on top. In Korea Dalgona candy is a popular street food made in metal ladles over a burning stove. It's a nostalgic treat that has been revived in popularity ever since the series came out. We usually eat honeycomb as chunks but Dalgona candy tastes like honeycomb but it's just in a thin disc rather than a fat chunk so it offers a different textural experience. Dalgona Candy involves just two ingredients: sugar and bicarbonate of soda.
My 10 Tips for making foolproof Dalgona Candy!
1- Dalgona Candy can take a bit of trial and error to perfect as it is all about timing and controlling temperature. If you follow the recipe below closely then you should be able to achieve perfect Dalgona candy.
2- Please use metal cutters as the melted sugar is very, very hot and some plastics don't respond well to heat.
3- Oil spray is your best friend to prevent the candy from sticking to the baking tin. I found that the sugar poured better into a circle on a lightly oiled baking tray than on a parchment lined tray. The parchment prevented the caramel from forming a perfect disc.
4- It is best to make only 2-3 dalgona discs at a time. My recipe below makes 3 small dalgona discs (or 2 larger ones). It's much easier to make several small batches of dalgona candy than one large batch because timing is crucial and the sugar sets quickly and you want be able to press down and imprint the candy quickly enough. And like with all candy making you do not want to rush because things are very hot.
5- Please use a heavy bottomed saucepan so that the sugar doesn't burn too quickly. Controlling the heat is crucial for candy making. I used a tiny copper saucepan that was 12cms/4.7inches in diameter that worked perfectly (I tried every saucepan I had).
6 - The amount of bicarb that you add is 2 pinches which I realise sounds like a vague term but once I started using a teaspoon it was waaaay too much and I found pinches much more reliable. If you don't add enough bicarb it won't foam up enough and it will be like a toffee (which is fine and totally edible but not dalgona) and if you add too much it will puff up considerably and won't work enough to press out.
7- You will need something to press down on the candy once it is poured-usually a Hotteok press is used but if you don't have one this can be anything from a turner to the bottom of a saucepan but obviously you want it heat proof because again the mixture is hot AF. You will also oil this lightly so that it doesn't stick to the candy.
8- The timing for pressing down on your dalgona candy is crucial. If you press down too soon it will stick to your press and sort of implode within itself. But if you wait for too long it will harden and you won't be able to press it. Wait for 10 seconds and then tap the dalgona candy with a silicon spatula and if it sticks it's not ready, if it doesn't stick press away gently.
9- If you want to try your hand at making a single, larger dalgona candy you can use 1.5 tablespoons of sugar in a metal ladle over a gas flame - keep in mind you will always have to hold the ladle handle.
10- Dalgona gets sticky quickly especially if you live in a humid area so store it on parchment in the fridge or freezer to give it a longer life.
I decided to make a Halloween version of this because Squid Game is about as Halloween as it gets and I had some cute, small Halloween cutters in the shape of a witch, owl, moon, cat, star and bat. In the show the Dalgona candy has four different shapes: umbrella, circle, star and triangle. This past Sunday I decided to try my hand at making it. Little did I realise how much of a challenge Dalgona candy would be to make. I used up almost 1 kilo/2lbs of sugar in my efforts to come up with the best, most reliable dalgona candy recipe. I spent 5 hours standing there making candy and washing up pots. My kitchen looked like a caramel crime scene after that with sugar threads everywhere. Halfway through I felt defeated as each lot of Dalgona candy failed. I even had a time out lying in a foetal position for 15 minutes before gathering myself together and returning to the kitchen. By the time Mr NQN got home from running errands around 5pm I had finally, FINALLY perfected Dalgona candy.
I can't wait for a second season but I have to tell you I embarrassed myself the other day. I put up a poster image of Squid Game on my Instagram stories saying how much I liked it. But a kind person pointed out that I had actually put up a poster where they had subbed the main characters faces with those of the Korean boy band BTS! I did think that they didn't quite look like the people in the show but that it was maybe their younger photos. But really I have no excuse and I think if anything it goes to show that you cannot take me anywhere. Except maybe Halloween...
So tell me Dear Reader, have you watched Squid Game? What did you think of it?
**P.S. I also wanted to add that there's a new episode of my new podcast Your Cake Dealer out and it's a really interesting one about all the tips and tricks that brands, restaurants and supermarkets use to get you to buy more! Find it wherever you get your podcasts like apple, Spotify or Stitcher. Or follow us on Instagram to find out when a new episode is out xxx **
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 1 minute
Cooking time: 5-7 minutes
- 1/4 cup/55g/2ozs. caster or superfine sugar
- 2 pinches bicarbonate soda
- Oil spray
Step 1 - Spray a baking tray lightly with oil spray (I use it upside down so that it is easier to press the candy) and have a spatula or saucepan ready and your imprint cutters and spray these lightly too. Place the sugar in a small heavy based saucepan and put the element to 6 out of 10 heat (where 10 is the hottest). The edges will start to turn liquid and caramelise. Once this happens turn heat down to 4 and stir gently to bring the uncooked sugar to the edge. It only takes a few minutes (around 3 minutes) to reach 160°C/320°F.
Step 2 -Take the pan off the heat and turn the heat down to 2 or very low. Add two pinches of baking soda and start stirring this in. Then place back on the element and stir well. Keeping it warm makes it easier to pour.
Step 3 - Immediately pour it onto the baking tray making 2-3 discs of caramel. Wait 5 seconds and then tap the surface gently with a spatula - if it sticks it's not ready but if it doesn't it is ready to press down. Press these down with the oiled spatula and then press down the cutters firmly. You won't go all the way to the bottom like you would with cutting out a cookie (you shouldn't be able to as the honeycomb won't let you). Allow to cool. Store on parchment sheets in the fridge or freezer.
Washing tip: soak the pans and utensils in hot water.
If your dalgona candy doesn't work out but isn't burnt, you can add a bit of water and cook it with some diced apples.