Recipe

Make dalgona candy and see if you’d survive the ‘Squid Game’ challenge

The Netflix series has sparked a global trend for making the Korean confection. Here’s how to do it using just two simple ingredients

14 October 2021 - 09:57 By Toni Jaye Singer and Hilary Biller
A street vendor sells dalgona candy from the Korean Netflix series 'Squid Game' in Seoul, South Korea.
A street vendor sells dalgona candy from the Korean Netflix series 'Squid Game' in Seoul, South Korea.
Image: Reuters/Heo Ran

Netflix’s Korean smash hit Squid Game has sparked a food trend that sees social media users cooking up dalgona (a honeycomb-like sweet) so they can try their hand at completing one of the show’s lethal challenges.

In Squid Game, hundreds of desperate people are given the opportunity to win a life-changing jackpot of 45.6 billion won (about R567m). All they’ve got to do is make it through a series of seemingly simple children’s games — including one starring disks of dalgona stamped with either a circle, triangle, star or umbrella shape.

To pass the challenge, the contestants must use a large needle to painstakingly carve their chosen shape out of a fragile dalgona disk. If they crack it or time runs out, they’ll be shot.

Making dalgona — or honeycomb as we’d call it — can be quite a challenge in itself as it involves working with hot sugar, says Sunday Times Food editor Hilary Biller, who shares a recipe for a version of the Korean confection below.

“It’s always best to make honeycomb on a dry rather than a wet day as the moisture in the air can make it sticky and difficult to cut shapes out of.”

For success, Biller recommends you have everything you’ll need at hand ahead of time.

“The Koreans use something called a hotteok press to flatten the mixture before shaping — a small bowl, ramekin or glass with a sturdy bottom sprayed with cooking spray will suffice

“I used metal cookie cutters to cut the outline of a circle and another cutter/shape for the design in the centre of the circle,” she adds. “It takes a few times to master dalgona candy so don’t give up, practice makes perfect.”

HOW TO MAKE ‘SQUID GAME’ DALGONA CANDY

Makes: 2 dalgona disks

Equipment:

Non-stick frying pan

Wooden spoon

Greaseproof paper or a Teflon mat 

Metal baking tray

Small bowl, ramekin or glass with a sturdy bottom

Cooking spray

Metal cookie cutters: A large circle and the smaller shape of your choice (In Squid Game, they use a circle, triangle, star and umbrella)

Large needles or toothpicks

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons (45ml) white granulated sugar

1.6ml bicarbonate of soda — a very small pinch

Method:

  1. Place the greaseproof paper or Teflon mat on the metal baking tray. Spray the bottom of the small bowl, ramekin or glass with cooking spray.
  2. Heat the sugar in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat until it melts, moving the pan to allow the sugar to brown evenly.
  3. When the melted sugar starts to change colour to a light golden brown — take care not to burn it — reduce the heat, add the bicarb and quickly stir using a wooden spoon until its completely dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  4. Working very quickly and taking care as the mixture is extremely hot, pour it out into 2 rough circles on the greaseproof paper or Teflon mat. Wait a few seconds until it has cooled slightly and is not sticky to the touch, then use the bottom of the small bowl, ramekin or glass to flatten out the circles.
  5. Immediately stamp out an outline of a circle using the large metal cookie cutter. Then use the metal cookie cutter in your chosen shape to stamp an outline of that shape in the centre. Allow to cool completely.
  6. Using a toothpick or large needle, ease around the disks to loosen them from the greaseproof paper or Teflon mat. Store in an airtight container.
  7. To take the Squid Game challenge, use a toothpick or large needle to try to carefully remove the centre shapes from the dalgona disks without breaking them.

Cook's tip: To clean the pan and the spoon covered with hardened candy, pour over hot water and let them stand to dissolve the sugary bits.


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