by Christina Apa
Interactive Map by Michael Karant
Korean cafes and restaurants in Toronto took part in the success of the hit Netflix series Squid Game by creating their own dalgona candy challenges.
In Sept. 2021, Netflix launched a new series called Squid Game, and it quickly became the platform’s highest streamed show. The Korean series follows hundreds of contestants as they battle to the death for a chance of winning almost half a million dollars.
Dalgona candy is featured in the third episode of the show. Also known as ppopgi, the treat is made from melted sugar that’s frothed with a little bit of baking soda. The New York Times reported that the candy is then pressed down to form a circle. Korean street vendors then push shapes into the centre. Customers, typically children, would then have to try and remove the shape from the middle without breaking it.
K Seoul Hotdog, a corn dog restaurant located in Koreatown in Toronto, started their own dalgona challenge. Customers could choose between various shapes such as an umbrella, a star or an elephant, and if they won they’d get a free original corn dog.
“The dalgona game was the traditional game that we used to play,” Jungho Kim, the restaurant owner said in an interview. Kim said he thought it would be fun if people who watched Squid Game could play the game and experience it, just like he did.
The Korea Herald reported that the candy was popular mostly in the 1970s until the early 1980s in South Korea. At the time there weren’t many baked goods for children to eat as having an oven back then was a rare luxury. It was a fun way to gamble with friends while getting to have something sweet.
Although the plot of the wildly popular series is quite gruesome, the use of childhood games and treats makes Kim feel nostalgic. “Making the candy and seeing customers try and beat the challenge feels like I’m reliving my childhood memories.” Kim said that the sudden interest in Korean street food has made him feel closer to his culture, and his past.
The next time you’re in Koreatown, or if you’re looking for something fun to do check out K Seoul Hotdog, and try out the dalgona challenge, if you dare!