The Reason You're Dying To Make Squid Game Dalgona Candy, According To A Psychologist

For anyone not following popular culture, the recent popularity boom in the South Korean candy dalgona has been fuelled by the hit Netflix show "Squid Game." And this is to be expected, as Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of "Joy from Fear," explained to Mashed. "From eating Harry Potter-themed jelly beans to Downton Abbey delicacies, many people enjoy bringing their viewing experiences more fully into their lives by making or purchasing foods highlighted in their favorite shows," she said.

There is, however, a crucial difference between the examples she gives and "Squid Game." Namely, the foods eaten in those instances are delightful delicacies, while the role dalgona plays in "Squid Game" is a potentially lethal challenge. In the series, contestants must carve a shape into the candy without cracking the sugary disc. "On a psychological level," Dr. Manly comments, "the juxtaposition between the harsh dynamics of the contestants' lives and the pure sweetness of the enduring, simple candy is a reminder of the duality of our lives."

However, she continues, the pleasure goes further than a meditation on the frailty of existence. In a manner analogous to embodying the delight of eating Harry Potter-themed jelly beans, people can reenact the thrill of the game without having the face the consequences of failure.

Getting in on the popularity

In South Korea, the premiere of "Squid Game" is fueling a resurgence in interest for dalgona. Talking to Reuters, An Yong-hui, the maker of the dalgona that appeared in the show, said he has seen sales more than double from less than 200 dalgonas a day to over 500. "We are thinking we should place a rifle here as well," he said. After all, it would play into that vicarious thrill that the candies instill. 

Indeed, the global phenomenon of "Squid Game" has made dalgonas themselves a global phenomenon. For example, The Takeout reports that a bakery in Beijing held its own dalgona challenge. One contestant thought she had won. "But then I got to this one," she narrated, "and broke it. And then I subconsciously started shaking a little with nerves as I thought about the show."

Theoretically, viewers from home can play in their own dalgona challenge. The recipe, as Korean Bapsang explains, is easy — all you need is sugar and baking soda. Start by melting the sugar in a ladle without overcooking it, add the baking soda, and lift the ladle away from the heat to keep the mixture from burning. Plop the result onto a non-stick pan to cool for a few seconds, and then flatten it with a cool implement. Now you can use some kind of cookie-cutter to lightly imprint a shape — unless you want to relive your favorite "Squid Game" moment.