- I tried making the South Korean dalgona candy that became famous worldwide after ‘Squid Game’ aired.
- In the show, cash-strapped players carve out designs in the candy, risking death if it cracks.
- Dalgona has a unique and nostalgic flavor, but reports that people got burned while making it stressed me out.
After binge-watching “Squid Game” and nervously watching my favorite characters sweat over cutting out a small piece of candy, I decided to try out one of the countless dalgona recipes I had seen circulating online to see if I would survive one of the show’s lethal challenges.
In the dystopian thriller, “Squid Game,” debt-laden contestants are forced to compete in deadly children’s games for a $38 million cash prize, and in one episode, must etch out shapes stamped into a brittle dalgona candy with a needle and are immediately executed if the candy cracks.
Dalgona, a classic South Korean snack, surged in popularity after it was featured in the show and after the trend of trying to make dalgona took over TikTok, with #dalgonachallenge racking up close to 23 million views.
But there is some real-world danger when making the candy if not done carefully — at least three people have been hospitalized with third-degree burns after spilling simmering-hot sugar on themselves while attempting to make the snack.
So, with a bit of trepidation, I carefully read through The New York Times’ recipe for dalgona a few times before getting started.
Step 1: Lay out the ingredients
All you need for dalgona candy is a sprinkle of baking soda, a tablespoon of sugar, and vegetable oil for greasing a sheet of parchment paper.
The stories of people spilling hot sugar on themselves while making it stressed me out, so I also exiled my 5-month-old kitten from the kitchen to prevent her from knocking anything over or getting burned during the next step.
Step 2: Melt the sugar and pour in baking soda
Though the candy is simple to make — all you have to do is melt sugar over a burner while quickly stirring it with chopsticks before sprinkling in some baking soda — this step can get a little messy if you’re not careful. I was too aggressive with my stirring technique on my first try, and I ended up spilling melted sugar onto the stove.
The sugar starts out by turning gooey around the edges before turning lumpy, until it transforms into a smooth, golden mixture. This is when you sprinkle in some baking soda, which gives the candy its light and airy texture.
As an added bonus, this is also the point where my entire kitchen started smelling like caramelizing sugar, a nostalgic smell that reminded me of bingtanghulu, a traditional Chinese snack I ate growing up that’s made by coating hawthorns or strawberries with melted sugar.
Step 3: Pour it onto parchment paper and stamp it with a cookie cutter
After that, I poured the mixture onto parchment paper, folded the greased side of the paper over, flattened the dalgona with a skillet, and stamped it with a cookie cutter. Moving fast is important, since the candy hardens quickly.
Step 4: Judgement time.
In a common South Korean children’s game that was replicated in “Squid Game,” street vendors will give a free candy to children if they’re able to carve out a shape etched into the candy with a needle without cracking the shape.
I was able to carve out two candies stamped with circle shapes easily, but the dalgona I stamped with a complicated snowflake design splintered into pieces almost immediately after I started carving it.
But they were all delicious. Dalgona have a nutty, sweet taste similar to toasted or burned marshmallows and a light, toffee-like texture. Since these bring back childhood memories and are so easy to make, I’ll definitely be cooking these — and playing the game — again.