The thing about Squid Game is that each and every trope of the show will leave a lasting taste long after the credits roll.
The South Korean drama on Netflix is centered around a survival game, in which each contestant is plagued by debt and socioeconomic inequality. The game is their chance to pull themselves up in society. But beyond this premise is its dystopian darkness, slow takedown of capitalism, and unpacking of injustice. The aesthetics and features are just as fundamental to the show’s appeal, too: the fuchsia and green tracksuits, the color-soaked sets, and of course, the dalgona candy seen in game’s second challenge.
The honeycomb candy, known as dalgona more widely, is a blend of sugar and baking soda. The sugary toffee-like structure finds its roots in Korea, where its popularity spreads across regions and decades. Anyone who is online will recognize the term from the early days of the pandemic, when the dalgona coffee became a worldwide phenomenon.
But that coffee is being replaced with a Squid Game uplift. Viewers and fans of the series will undoubtedly recall dalgona from episode three (“The Man with the Umbrella”), where the players are made to play a seemingly innocent childhood game. Each player has to carefully carve out a shape — circle, triangle, star, or umbrella — pressed onto the delicate piece of honeycomb. If said candy cracks even slightly, the soldiers shoot the contestants on the spot. It’s just one of the harrowing challenges that has had Netflix-watchers enraptured.
Like everything associated with the hit show, the candy has launched nothing short of a craze, spanning from every corner of the Internet to street vendors.
“The production crew and I would joke about our series starting a dalgona craze, like how Netflix’s Kingdom did with the gat ― a traditional Korean hat ― but I’m astounded that it actually happened,” Squid Game creator and director Hwang Dong-hyuk told The Korea Times.
Online, the dalgona cookie and candy fascination really took shape on TikTok. On the platform, users have been have sharing recipes, trying the challenge out, and re-enacting the iconic episode.
Food vloggers, in particular, have been sharing recipes for the honeycomb-like treat. Take @nickandhelmi, for instance, a food and travel vlogging-duo from Sydney, Australia. They shared tips and tricks on how make the perfect dalgona candy, giving followers a step-by-step path to creating the dish. Other accounts, like @misojenkitchen, are doing the same.
Nick and Helmi told Mashable that they’d heard about dalgona back when the coffee went viral back in 2020. But its resurgence is definitely a result of the show, they added.
“Dalgona became a viral trend again thanks to Squid Game,” the vloggers said. “We tried making it a few times and kept failing. Then we managed to get it right so decided to share a video with our followers.”
That seems about right: from the wealth of recipes online, perfecting dalgona is not the easiest task. But the Internet, with its Squid Game fascination, can certainly help.
TikTok itself quickly jumped onto the trend, too, creating a “Toffee Game” effect. With the show’s signature, haunting music in the background, users use their faces to carve out the shapes on the cookies — a digital mirror to the real life challenge. (Disclaimer: It’s actually not the easiest). The effect currently has 49.9K videos and counting.
Some fans are pointing out that the candy isn’t a Squid Game creation, but actually has a long history in South Korea. Street vendors have been selling the candy (known as “ppopgi“) since about the 1960s, parking outside schools or in popular districts where they would make the candy on the spot.
The comments appear to be centered around the Westernization of what has long been a corner-stone of Korean culture. Despite this criticism, though, others are welcoming the renewed interest in the snack, crediting Squid Game for the nostalgia it’s brought. Some people recall playing the game when they were younger, and eating the signature cookies as children (without the fatal stakes, of course).
The influence has spread to street levels, too, particularly aiding vendors in South Korea. In the country’s capital city, Seoul, for example, a vendor who has been making dalgona for close to a decade is now seeing the candies skyrocket in popularity.
While Squid Game can’t be credited for the invention of the sweet concoction, the show can be lauded for reigniting interest in them. The dalgona craze also emphasizes the reach of Squid Game. The show really will stay with you, one way or the other.