Hailing from South Korea, Squid Game depicts individuals who have reached rock-bottom in debt and financial troubles. They were plucked from an anonymous puppet master of sorts to play various children’s games, with the prize being millions of won and the loss being death. It is a dystopian story with underlying elements of societal critique and flavorful acting that has allowed it to become such a worldwide success today.

But the ppogi game — which is the second round in the deathly competition of Squid Game — is not a novel activity that was created by the director. It’s a decades-old nostalgic game in which one attempts to carve out the shape formed on the dalgona. Dalgona, a Korean street food favorite, is a concoction of melted sugar and a bit of baking soda. It’s often made into a circular pad and stamped in the center with shapes such as a star, heart, or triangle before fully cooling. Sometimes, when successfully carving out the shape, children are even gifted prizes or an additional free dalgona as a reward.

The history of dalgona

Ironically, the city in which dalgona had first appeared in the 1960’s – Busan – is where I stayed in October to visit some family during my semester abroad in South Korea! Witnessing the massive success of Squid Game while in Korea had been such a surreal experience, from watching the dynamic series to seeing the life-size display of the first game in the Itaewon subway station. With the worldwide addiction to the dalgona ppogi game following the success of the series, I had to explore this craze further while in South Korea.

Dalgona has always been a sort of comfort snack in Korea. You can find it pretty much in any of the major street food markets such as the Namdaemun Market or the Gwangjang Market. I’ve always enjoyed grabbing one on a busy day at the street food market from one of the nearby vendors when visiting in the past. It’s a collective childhood and present memory that lives on in Korean culture, with the simple translation of the name in Korean to “it’s sweet.”. With a sweet name and recipe, it’s easy to see why it’s become such a staple candy and worldwide trend.

From the dalgona coffee trend to the ppogi challenge craze, dalgona had sparked a massive interest in the treat as well as playful activities related to it. Witnessing this candy transform from a cultural snack that was mainly known within Korea to a worldwide fascination was an exciting and new shock. This Halloween, I tried my hand in the ppogi game (and failed miserably). With the roasted goodness of the sugary treat to its current association with the Netflix series, I see why it’s such a global craze! It makes me proud and curious to see bits and pieces of Korean culture become so known, and I’m curious to see what else could follow suit in the reign of dalgona and Squid Game