Dalgona. Ppopgi. Honeycomb. Many different names for something that’s made of only two ingredients. But that’s the best thing about this sugar candy treat. It’s fairly traditional both in its English form and Korean. But Korea’s version has a certain charm to it, coming from years of history and a cute little game made for kids and adults alike.
My first introduction to dalgona came with on EXO’s Showtime variety show. Whilst the boys were exploring Bukchon Hanok Village, they passed a man making the treats using a ladle over a hot flame. This fascinated member Tao, and likewise me. I had never seen the method with which he made these dalgona, nor why shapes were imprinted in their centres.
Nowadays, it’s a bit of a throwback food, and not just in my history! Dalgona was popular during the 1970’s and 80’s as a street food. A lot like Hoddeok, it’s well suited to the cooler months of the year as when it’s first prepared, the sugar will still be slightly warm and sticky before it hardens. To make it, sugar is melted down in a ladle over a flame, after which a small amount of baking soda is added. The chemical reaction causes the darkened sugar to puff up with air, become light and golden. This is then poured onto a flat surface and pressed even flatter The shape that is printed in the centre of the dalgona does not go all the wall through. It’s an outline.
This is where the fun comes in. The idea is to eat the rest of the sugar snack whilst preserving the shape. It cannot snap or fall apart in any way and there are no rules on how to achieve that goal. You could nibble around the edges or use a toothpick to cut the shape out. If you’re successful, tradition dictates that you get another dalgona free from the seller.
Of course, this is only if you’re purchasing one from a street food vendor. If you make them yourself at home, then you can eat as many as you want. Did we mention that they’re super easy too? All you need aside from the ingredients is a safe place to melt the sugar, some cookie cutters and lollipop sticks. Have a look at how YouTube channel EasyKoreanFood makes them and try it out for yourself! If you manage to save the shape in the middle, let us know!